Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Why??Utah has twice the national average of anti-depressant use and Utah is 70% Mormon. DO THE MATH!

Utah and mood

Two Studies Find Depression Widespread in Utah

Study Calling Utah Most Depressed, Renews Debate on Root Causes


March 7, 2008—

The still waters of the Great Salt Lake run deep -- and dark.

Take Wendy, a 40-year-old teacher and mother of three from Utah County. To all appearances, she led the perfect life. Just as she was expected to, she went from high school cheerleader to Mormon missionary to wife and mother.

"But life has a funny way of not being perfect," she said. "Three years into my marriage my husband was drinking, using drugs and stepping out on me.

"I knew I was depressed and needed help, but there is a stigma about depression in this area," said Wendy, who asked that not use her last name. "People think it's a sign of weakness. It means you're not capable of being a good mother or wife or teacher."

Wendy's secret is Utah's secret. The postcard image of Utah is a state of gleaming cities, majestic mountains and persistently smiling people. But new research shows a very different picture of the state, a snapshot of suicide and widespread depression.

A recent study by Mental Health America, the country's oldest independent mental health advocacy organization, ranked Utah the most depressed state in the country.

Another survey released last week by drug distribution company Express Scripts found that residents of Utah were prescribed antidepressant drugs more than those of any other state and at twice the national average.

According to MHA, some 10.14 percent of adults in Utah "experienced a depressive episode in the past year and 14.15 percent experienced serious psychological distress. ... Individuals in Utah reported having on average 3.27 poor mental health days in the past 30 days."

The reason for Utah's mass depression, however, is unknown.

"The truth is, we don't know why," said Dr. Ted Wander, spokesman for the Utah Psychiatric Association.

Neither study was broken down by gender, but nationally women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depressive disorders as men, experts told ABC News.

Psychiatrists point to several factors that could contribute to Utah's high levels of depression: limited mental health resources, restricted access to treatment as a result of cost, poor quality of resources and a varied list of other factors, including an underfunded educational system and a culture deeply rooted in the Mormon faith.

"Availability to resources, a lack of professionals and barriers to treatment, including the ability to pay all drive up instances of depression," said Dr. Curtis Canning, a Logan-based psychiatrist and former president of the Utah Psychiatric Association. "But there is also -- especially when it comes to women and girls -- a cultural factor."

Seventy percent of Utah's residents are Mormon. When Express Scripts issued its first national survey of prescription drug use in 2002, it sparked a heated debate across Utah about what, if any role, the church played in the state's high dependence on antidepressants such as Prozac and Zoloft.

"In Mormon culture females are supposed accept a calling. They are to be constantly smiling over their family of five. They are supposed to take supper across the street to an ill neighbor and then put up with their husband when he comes home from work and smile about it the whole time. There is this sense that Mrs. Jones down street is doing the same thing, and there is this undercurrent of competition. To be a good mother and wife, women have to put on this mask of perfection. They can't show their tears, depression or agony," Canning said.

"Obedience, conformity and maintaining a sense of harmony" are unspoken but widely recognized behaviors, which all contribute to what he calls "the Mother of Zion syndrome."

When Wendy first started seeking professional help and was put on Zoloft 10 years ago, she felt the sting of shame even from her own family members.

"Marriage and family are so important that there was a huge amount of pressure to make things work. I was supposed to try harder, and buck up and that would make me happier and keep my husband from abusing me," she said.

"There are expectations from the community, but mostly from other women," she said. "It doesn't come down from the church necessarily, but it's passed from mother to daughter. My family was reluctant to see me taking the drugs, but since seeing me at my worst, they now encourage me to take my meds."

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Days Saints, however, says the high number of prescriptions is a result of people receiving the drugs they need in Utah more than in other places.

"I don't think it's clear that there's a crisis in Utah," said Brent Scharman, a psychologist and the assistant commissioner of LDS Family Services, a church network that provides counseling. "You've got one camp that says there is more depression and another camp that says we just have more consumers." Scharman said studies on organized religion and depression found that religious people were generally happier than nonreligious people, and that held true for Mormons.

"It always boils down to the issue of what influence the LDS lifestyle has on the depression phenomenon," he said. "Non-LDS and some LDS people say this is a kind of driven lifestyle and that we push too hard and smile too much. But studies show, and those living it out see, that religion is good support. It creates a positive network and helps people get through crises and deal with long-term problems.

"Are there people who feel 'I'm not living up to the LDS ideal,' or 'I'm not living up to my family's expectations'? Absolutely, there is no question. But having done counseling outside the LDS community, I saw people there, too, who were depressed because of perfectionism," he said. "I wouldn't say it is any worse here than in more diverse communities."

The MHA study evaluated information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each of the 50 states and Washington, D.C., and factored in suicide statistics to determine each state's "depression status."


Songcat said...

I am not Mormon but when I lived in Utah, I was diagnosed with depression, anxiety and bi-polar of which I am none. It was only because I lived under a dark, black cloud called "oppression".

Anonymous said...

I had a Mormon friend who told me once that my church was false. Claimed he knew the Mormon Church was true because while on his mission, he baptized someone in Spanish (locals supposedly told him his Spanish was perfect) in spite of never having learned the language. So he should have been a fairly happy person, right? He was on anti-depressants. His father also had mental health issues, supposedly (I only met the man once).

Even Marie Osmond, America's Mormon Sweetheart, has admitted to suffering from extreme postpartum depression.

Jason Katzenbach said...

I attribute the high depression rate in Utah to 3 things.

1. The culture of perfectionism. This has got to change, but I don't see it happening any time soon.

2. The absence of alcohol :-). That's mostly just a joke, but it could be true.

3. Most seriously though, I think the problem comes down to a lot of people going to see their bishops instead of a licensed mental health professional. The bishop tells them all they need to do is to read their scriptures and pray more, which doesn't help them so they turn to their normal physician who irresponsibly gives them some drugs rather than refer them to a psychologist who can actually help them to cope with the issues that are causing their depression.

Your blog is definitely interesting, I certainly don't agree with everything, but I may check it out once in a while to challenge my assumptions.

Demon of Kolob said...

Jason good comments, Alcohol is avalable here, but the laws drive you crazy.

Anonymous said...

Your blog is really interesting and informative.I think those who suffering in this they should read it.I also suffered a lot from this type of panic disorder, depression and lots of mental health problems. I used Xanax to get rid of all this things; it’s really works a lot.

Anonymous said...

I found the portion of the report about the Mormon Church being a source of social support interesting. It was couched in a binary manner, "as if" the church was either the cause of anxiety, stress, and depression, OR a source of social support.

Anyone ever suggest it is both? You see, the social support in Mormonism is conditional. Therefore, it provides a tremendous amount of social support for those striving to "go along with the program". Perhaps this creates a co-dependency for the Mormon. Stress, anxiety, and depression rooted in a "gospel" that promises salvation "after all that you can do" coupled with a behavioristic mode of judging one's heart by their actions. Public shortcomings bring about an automatic false attribution on the person's character which passes like a wildfire through a group of people whose "duty" it is to keep watch over each others souls via, controlling each others' behavior through social pressure and manipulation. But the social pressure turns into the open arms of reward when one increases his or her willingness to conform and even draw others into the sheep fold.

Social support? Yes, upon the condition that you always support the leadership, give freely of your time, represent the church as the source and purpose for all your goodness, and always pay your tithing.

Demon of Kolob said...

Anon , Yes it can be both

Anonymous said...

Sorry Weston, But only reason I was depressed in Utah was because of the darkness which hangs over the state, much of it having to do with an overwhelming influence and prevelance of the local dominant religion. Long story, but Utah was the only state in the U.S.A. in which I have lived that caused such anxiety and depression in me. It had nothing to do with my "Norwestern European, women" description with which you are labeling.

Anonymous said...

I'm LDS... I've gotta say, I don't live in Utah, but I visit regularly, and I have panic attacks there and I get really irritable. It starts out with the insane traffic around SLC where every driver feels that wherever they're going, or whatever they're doing is more important than what anybody else is doing. I think if the other drivers would relax and slow down a bit, and be polite, then I wouldn't start having panic attacks, which eventually lead to irritibiliy and depression for me.

Also, I hate that they designed the traffic lights to turn red as you enter the intersection... it's like they're encouraging people to break the law by making the law impossible to follow.

Ok, so this really has nothing to do with mormons, and everything to do with traffic... but the only other place I've felt that way is driving around NYC... with all the NJ liscence plates.

Anonymous said...

I certainly don't think its only a Utah thing but it can be seen more easily there. Depression is common amongst Mormons and Exmormons in England too. I feel its due to the pressure to be perfect, keep problems to yourself and the religion not living up to what it professes.