Suicide Among Mormon Church Members

Over the weekend, a long-time colleague, committed suicide.  As I look back, this is the sixth individual that I’ve known (none well) or been somewhat acquainted with that has done this.  Four were in their 30s and 40s, and 2 were older.  The two older ones may have euthanized themselves.  Both were in pain, and one was quite old.

At least 2 of the younger ones suffered from depression.  Two were married, one had children and grandchildren, and the other had 4 children still living at home.  Of the 4 who were not married, 3 were in midlife.  All were members of the LDS Church.  I’m not sure about their activity rates, but I’m sure all were still affiliated with the Church.

I realize this is a small sample size, but I wonder about the half who were unmarried and in their 30s and 40s?  Of course, we care about them all.  Depression is an ugly disease.  But I particularly wonder about those that were not married.  I hope they have found the peace that they so obviously needed.

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4 Responses to Suicide Among Mormon Church Members

  1. dor says:

    So very, very sorry to hear about the loss. Loss is cumulative and, as we age, we experience it more often. It is particularly painful, though, when it comes via suicide.
    No doubt, people of all faiths commit suicide. Religious prohibitions against suicide and emphasizing its influence on the after-life experience are intended to deter taking such drastic action. Your post does raise key questions.
    When does faith cross a line into denial? How do we lovingly and faithfully counsel so that we do not add to the pain already being experienced? How do we accept illness and despair in non-judgmental terms? What teachings build a person’s sense of worth; what teachings erode a person’s sense of worth?
    For me, being faithful is (in part) an acknowledgement of the interconnected nature of humanity. Faith stresses that we change the world daily by our presence alone because we are all one body. What happens, though, when religions suggest that our value and insight are tied to our roles?
    There was a time when depression was considered demonic influence. Now we know it is an illness. Soon, perhaps, we will come to understand it is as much a societal illness as a bio-chemical one.
    Perhaps we compartmentalize in ways that God does not. We, in the smallness of our humanity, want a clear line between saint and sinner, healthy and ill, compassionate and stingy, faithfulness and heresy. But the largeness of God sees that each of us house the entire spectrum and who and how we are is comprised of moment-by-moment thoughts and actions.
    Which raises the biggest question of all: can our religions adequately nurture “the better angels of our nature”, accept people for who they are and find ways to use the gifts of every person?

    • rogerdhansen says:

      Suicide brings up all kinds of issues. What should our attitude be toward euthanasia? How much physical and emotional pain should we have to endure? How can we improve our relationship with those who choose not to marry, or don’t have the opportunity to marry, or who intentionally or unintentionally choose to delay marriage. What unnecessary pressures are we putting on those groups? Additionally, what about our gay friends? Are we putting unreal expectations on them? Shouldn’t they be allowed to love?

  2. JL says:

    I think it would be fascinating to do an in-depth study on this with a large sample size. In fact, I am a psych major hoping to do a PhD program in developmental psychology and I am particularly interested in studying atypical experiences (like not getting married) and how that affects physical and emotional well-being.

    From a personal perspective, I was still active LDS at 29 and I was single with few prospects and no hope. Did that affect my mental health? You bet! The expectation of celibacy, the feeling of total despair and sense of powerlessness over my life left me terribly depressed and, admittedly, suicidal at times. Finally, I got therapy, left the Church, and realized I didn’t need to be doomed to a life without the possibility of companionship and children.

    Of course, I have plenty of active single friends in their early 30s who seem fine. But I do think there is a correlation between being single, LDS and suicide risk.

    • rogerdhansen says:

      Hi JL, Thanx for being so forthcoming. I think the LDS Church puts too much pressure on singles when they constantly talk about eternal families. Good luck with the rest of your life, and I hope you get the chance to do your study on “atypical experiences.” Roger

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