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Friday, February 20, 2015

Mental Health and Prophetic Counsel

                Families, communities, and nations are strengthened when the rising generation is mentally healthy.  By following prophetic counsel, parents, grandparents, and leaders can guide the rising generation and help them to avoid suicide.  We would be wise to discover that counsel and follow it.

                The Utah Department of Health conducted a study in 2013 and published the results of the study this month.   LDS Living published an article comparing the findings of the study with prophetic counsel.  The study discovered that teen suicide rates are affected by what happens in our homes.  The study discovered that the level of education attained by the parents, the strength of family relationships, and weekly attendance at religious meetings all have an impact on teen suicide.  Bullying and addiction to electronics also lead to higher risk of suicide.  Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day have received prophetic counsel on just these things.

                According to the health study, there is a specific benefit to a child whose parents were educated:  “Students who lived with adults who had not graduated from high school had a significantly higher rate of suicide ideation compared to those whose parents had completed high school (20.6% vs. 16.8%, respectively).  Those whose parents had graduated from college had lower rates of suicide ideation.”

                On April 2, 1843, the Prophet Joseph Smith received instructions about education by revelation:  “Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.
                        And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come” (Doctrine and Covenants 130:18-19).

                The Church considers education vital for this life as well as for the next life and counsels its members to get as much education as possible.  Prophets counsel the youth of the Church about many subjects in a pamphlet entitled For the Strength of Youth.  Regarding education, the counsel includes:  “Education will prepare you for greater service in the world and in the Church.  It will help you better provide for yourself, your family, and those in need.  It will also help you be a wise counselor and companion to your future spouse and an informed and effective teach of your future children.”

                The Church also published a special issue of New Era about education:  “Learning wisdom is a lifelong process.  It starts before your first day of school and doesn’t end when you die.  It is the thing you carry with you through the eternities.
                “But your growing-up years are devoted to spending your time learning the essential of education.  As facts and figures demand a place in your memory, hopefully you will also learn to think and reason and apply what you have learned.  That is the beginning of wisdom….
                “The education of the heart, of the conscience, and of the spirit, along with the education of the mind, truly is higher education.”

                The health study found that “students who ate a meal with their family five or more days in a typical week (61.1% of respondents) were half as likely to consider suicide.  Students who experienced an episode of depressive symptoms in the past year also benefitted from family mealtimes, as they were still less likely to have considered suicide in the past year.”
                “Studies have shown that kids who eat with their families frequently are less likely to get depressed, consider suicide, and develop an eating disorder.  They are also more like to delay sex and to report that their parents are proud of them.  When a child is feeling down or depressed, family dinner can act as an intervention.  This is especially true of eating disorders, says Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, PhD, a professor at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health, who has studied the impact of family meal patterns on adolescents.  `If a child eats with his or her parents on a regular basis, problems will be identified earlier on,’ she says.”

                Church leaders and other counselors encourage families to eat their meals together as a family in order to discuss schedules, daily happenings, concerns, etc.  Prophetic counsel about families eating meals together came from Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles as well as others.  “The number of those who report that their `whole family usually eats dinner together’ has declined 33%.  This is most concerning because the time a family spends together `eating meals at home [is] the strongest predictor of children’s academic achievement and psychological adjustment.’  Family mealtimes have also been shown to be a strong bulwark against children’s smoking, drinking, or using drugs.  There is inspired wisdom in this advice to parents:  what your children really want for dinner is you.”

                The health study showed that families attending Church together helps to keep teen suicide at bay:  “Those who attend religious services or activities once a week or more (60.4% of sample) were half as likely to have considered suicide.”  The study also found that “even among those who had experienced an episode of depressive symptoms (two or more weeks of feeling sad or hopeless to the point where it interfered with their usual activities) in the previous year (20.8% of the sample), religious involvement was still protective.”

                President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency spoke about Church attendance in 2010:  “I understand that, at time, some may wonder why they attend Church meetings or why it is so important to read the scriptures regularly or pray to our Heavenly Father daily.  Here is my answer:  You do these things because they are part of God’s path for you.  And that path will take you to your `happily ever after’ destination.”

                Attending Church meetings together creates an extended support network and decreases the likelihood of developmental problems:  “A church family provides you with an extended network of like-minded people who have the same beliefs and spiritual aims that you have, allowing you to seek support and give encouragement to one another.  If you happen to live far away from your own extended family, members of your congregation who you’re particularly close to can help fill that void.”  Also:  “A special report by the National Survey of Children’s Health indicates that religious participation by an intact family is associated with a lowered risk of developmental and behavioral problems in school-aged children.

                The health study included bullying, saying that those who were bullied “were four times more likely to have seriously considered suicide during the same time period.  Those who had been bullied electronically (15.9% of respondents) were 4.4 times more likely to have considered suicide.”

                The study echoed counsel given by Elder David A Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles when he warned of the harmful effects that digital technologies can have on our souls.  “I raise an apostolic voice of warning about the potentially stifling, suffocating, suppressing, and constraining impact of some kinds of cyberspace interactions and experiences upon our souls.  The concerns I raise are not new; they apply equally to other types of media, such as television, movies, and music.  But in a cyber-world, these challenges are more pervasive and intense.  I plead with you to beware of the sense-dulling and music.  But in a cyber-world, these challenges are more pervasive and intense.  I plead with you to beware of the sense-dulling and spiritually destructive influence of cyberspace technologies that are used to produce high fidelity and that promote degrading and evil purposes.

                “If the adversary cannot entice us to misuse our physical bodies, then one of his most potent tactics is to beguile you and me as embodied spirits to disconnect gradually and physically from things as they really are.  In essence, he encourages us to think and act as if we were in our premortal, unembodied state.  And, if we let him, he can cunningly employ some aspects of modern technology to accomplish his purposes.  Please be careful of becoming so immersed and engrossed in pixels, texting, earbuds, twittering, online social networking, and potentially addictive uses of media and the Internet that you fail to recognize the importance of your physical body and miss the richness of person-to-person communication.  Beware of digital displays and data in many forms of computer-mediated interaction that can displace the full range of physical capacity and experience.

                “Brothers and sisters, please understand.  I am not suggesting all technology is inherently bad; it is not.  Nor am I saying we should not use its many capabilities in appropriate ways to learn, to communicate, to lift and brighten lives, and to build and strengthen the Church; of course we should….” 

                Elder Bednar also said, “Overuse of electronics in general was also associated with higher odds of suicide ideation; those who used video games or computers for non-school-related activities (social media, etc.) for three or more hours per day (24.8% of respondents) were about twice as likely to have seriously considered suicide in the past year compared to those who had two or fewer hours of screen time daily.”

                The Utah health study proved the validity of the words of prophets and apostles.  We would do well to listen when inspired leaders speak to us.  We can strengthen the rising generation in our families, communities, and nation by listening when prophets speak.

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