Suicide Rate Disturbingly High Among Arizona Mormons
Candle-lighting ceremony held Friday night
Published : Friday, 26 Nov 2010
MESA - A huge Christmas celebration kicked off Friday night at Mesa's Mormon temple, and at the same moment, a group of gay Mormons made their voices heard.
They're criticizing church beliefs about homosexuality and raising awareness of high suicide rates.
Gay people of the Mormon religion are reaching out to young people who may be gay and conflicted about following the LDS teachings that condemn homosexuality.
It's a conflict that outreach backers say has ended far too many young lives in suicide.
At the same time the LDS church turns on 600,000 Christmas lights Friday night at the Mesa temple, the group lit candles and snuffed them out. The gesture symbolizes gay Mormons who have committed suicide, and is a call for tolerance and acceptance.
"Often times it goes to despair. They do not know what to do so they think of suicide. Arizona's suicide rate is one-third higher than national average at 16 out of 100,000. Utah where the church has its stronghold is three times the national average," says co-organizer Bobby Parker.
Gay people say the Mormon church considers them sinners and has no place for them.
"I feel like there is no understanding with someone being gay. It is thought of in the church as a choice that you make," says Kent Flake, a relative of Arizona Congressman Jeff Flake. He came out and left the church.
"You know it is not me that has a problem, it is the church that has a problem with who I am."
The LDS church would not comment specifically on the planned suicide prevention outreach, but sent us the following statement: "The church recognizes that those of its members who are attracted to others of the same sex experience deep emotional, social and physical feelings… it's not a sin to have feelings, only to yield to temptation."
But gay current and former church members say, suicides among gay Mormons will not decline until the LDS church stops considering homosexuality a sin.
People who support the outreach program say Arizona has about 400,000 Mormons, and based on population statistics, roughly 40,000 are gay.
Utah has 3 times the national average of suicides -- a large percentage of them gay members of the church.
Arizona's suicide rate is one-third higher than the national average, and the state also has a large population of Mormons, so based on the numbers inferences can be made.
Marie Osmond Son, Michael Blosil, Leaps to Death in LA
By The Improper
February 27th, 2010
Marie Osmond’s adopted son, Michael Blosil, has plunged to his death from his Los Angeles apartment building in a suicide leap that ends a long struggled with depression.
Michael first went into rehab, at 16, in 2007, and last March, Marie told People magazine that he was coping with his illness.
“Those kinds of things are really very hard for a teenager to deal with,” she told the magazine. “And if he ever wants to talk about it … he will, but it has to be their choice. It’s not my choice.”
In 1999, Marie revealed that she had suffered from severe postpartum depression. Three years ago, tabloids reported that she had attempted suicide herself, but her reps heatedly denied the reports.
Michael’s death was first reported by Entertainment Tonight, which has had a relationship with Osmond.
“Osmond family members have notified ET that Marie Osmond’s son Michael Blosil leapt to his death Friday night in Los Angeles,” the entertainment Web site reported.
Contacted by phone this morning, Donny Osmond told ET: “Please pray for my sister and her family,” the site reported.
Blosil left a note explaining his plan to commit suicide because of his severe depression. He said he felt as if he had no friends and could never fit in.
He jumped from his downtown Los Angeles apartment at about 9 p.m. on Friday night.
Marie and brother Donnie, who are both said to be devastated by the news, canceled their Las Vegas tonight.
Marie Osmond, who is Mormon, has been married and divorced twice and has eight children from the two marriages.
Her first husband Stephen Craig, was a Brigham Young University basketball player. They wed in 1982 and had one child, Stephen James Craig who was born in 1983. They divorced soon after in the mid-80s.
Her second husband, Brian Blosil, is also Mormon, and they married in 1986. Osmond had two more children with him and adopted five other children: Jessica Marie in 1987, Michael Brian in 1991, Brandon Warren in 1997, Brianna Patricia in 1998, and Abigail Michelle in 2002.
Osmond and Blosil divorced in 2007, surprising many who thought they had a stable marriage.
Last April, after dealing with Michael’s depression, Marie disclosed that her second oldest daughter, Jessica, is a lesbian, which is scorned by the Mormon church. Marie, however, said she supports her daughter.
Group targets LDS women
December 2, 2009
Two Studies Find Depression Widespread in Utah
Study Calling Utah Most Depressed, Renews Debate on Root Causes
By RUSSELL GOLDMAN
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 ABCNEWS.com 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."
Report Reveals Links Between States' Mental Health Status and Treatment-Access
First-ever report ranks states based on depression status; calls for mental health monitoring system to inform state policies impacting access to care
Alexandria, VA (November 28, 2007) - Mental Health America today released its report, "Ranking America's Mental Health: An Analysis of Depression Across the States," a first-of-its-kind study examining state and national data for statistical associations between access-to-care factors and actual health outcomes, namely a state's mental health status and suicide rate. Included in the study is a ranking of the 50 states and the District of Columbia based on rates of depression and suicide. South Dakota is found to lead the nation with the best depression status while Utah ranked last.
For the complete rankings, visit www.mentalhealthamerica.net/go/state-ranking.
"It is important to note that regardless of where each state ranks on our mental health scale, there is much room for improvement," said Dr. David Shern, PhD, president and CEO of Mental Health America. "While a number of factors including biology and environment impact an individual's mental health, this study shows that states can significantly improve their populations' mental health status by adopting policies that expand access to mental health treatments."
In "Ranking America's Mental Health," Mental Health America found statistically-significant associations between the following factors and better depression status and lower suicide rates:
Mental health resources - On average, the higher the number of psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers per capita in a state, the lower the suicide rate.
Barriers to treatment - The lower the percentage of the population reporting that they could not obtain healthcare because of costs, the lower the suicide rate and the better the state's depression status. In addition, the lower the percentage of the population that reported unmet mental healthcare needs, the better the state's depression status.
Mental health treatment utilization - Holding the baseline level of depression in the state constant, the higher the number of antidepressant prescriptions per capita in the state, the lower the suicide rate.
Socioeconomic characteristics - The more educated the population and the greater the percentage with health insurance, the lower the suicide rate. The more educated the population, the better the state's depression status.
In addition, the report found the following factor to be significantly associated with the level of mental health service utilization in a state:
Health Insurance parity - The more generous a state's mental health parity coverage, the greater the number of people in the population that receive mental health services.
"The findings of this study underscore the critical need to monitor the mental health status of Americans by examining depression and the states' policies that may impact it," said Shern. "Through regular and ongoing measurement of key indicators of depression, we will be able to understand how state public policies impact a population's depression level and suicide rate - and make adjustments to benefit the millions of American affected by depression."
In developing the state rankings of depression status, Mental Health America examined four measures: 1) the percentage of the adult population experiencing at least one major depressive episode in the past year, 2) the percentage of the adolescent population experiencing at least one major depressive episode in the past year, 3) the percentage of adults experiencing serious psychological distress, and 4) the average number of days in the last 30 days in which the population reported that their mental health was not good.
This report found significant variation among the states in the levels of depression and in its most tragic consequence: suicide. Rates of depression among the states vary from around seven percent in the least depressed states to over 10 percent in states where residents reported the highest levels of depression. This difference represents a nearly 40 percent variation from the least to the most depressed states.
To achieve top ranking in the country, South Dakota yielded the best results for the four measures used to develop a composite depression status indicator. Among adults, 7.31 percent experienced a major depressive episode in the past year and 11.6 percent experienced serious psychological distress. Among adolescents, 7.4 percent had a major depressive episode in the past year. On average, South Dakotans reported 2.41 poor mental health days per month. Even though South Dakota ranked well in overall depression status, it is also important to note that the state had an age-adjusted suicide rate of 14.85, ranking South Dakota 40th in the nation, which is 300% higher than the District of Columbia, which has the lowest suicide rate.
Utah ranked 51st in depression status. For both adults and adolescents, 10.14 percent reported experiencing a major depressive episode in the past year. Among adults, 14.58 percent experienced serious psychological distress. On average, residents of Utah reported 3.27 poor mental health days per month.
"Despite the fact that some states do better than others on rates of depression and suicide, no state can be satisfied with its current status," continued Shern. "These rates can be driven lower by encouraging state policies designed to improve coverage, end discriminatory practices in insurance, and assure that qualified mental health professionals are available to serve everyone in need."
The top ten "least depressed" states are: 1) South Dakota, 2) Hawaii, 3) New Jersey, 4) Iowa, 5) Maryland, 6) Minnesota, 7) Louisiana, 8) Illinois, 9) North Dakota, and 10) Texas. The bottom ten "most depressed" states are: 42) Wyoming, 43) Ohio, 44) Missouri, 45) Idaho, 46) Oklahoma, 47) Nevada, 48) Rhode Island, 49) Kentucky, 50) West Virginia, and 51) Utah.
Ranking America's Mental Health: An Analysis of Depression Across the States
Depression is a chronic illness that exacts a significant toll on America's health and productivity. It affects more than 21 million American children and adults annually and is the leading cause of disability in the United States for individuals ages 15 to 44.
Lost productive time among U.S. workers due to depression is estimated to be in excess of $31 billion per year. Depression frequently co-occurs with a variety of medical illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, and chronic pain and is associated with poorer health status and prognosis. It is also the principal cause of the 30,000 suicides in the U.S. each year. In 2004, suicide was the 11th leading cause of death in the United States, third among individuals 15-24.
Despite significant gains in the availability of effective depression treatment over the past decade, the level of unmet need for treatment remains high. On average, people living with depression go for nearly a decade before receiving treatment, and less than one-third of people who seek help receive minimally adequate care.
"Ranking the States: An Analysis of Depression Across the States" was researched and written by Mental Health America and Thomson Healthcare. It looks at data from 2002-2006 and was conducted from July to November 2007. The report compares depression levels and suicide rates in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and uses the information to highlight solutions to improve states' mental health status.
Mental Health America has two goals for the report: (1) spur the development of a public health surveillance system to monitor the mental health of Americans and the specific impact of depression, and (2) to stimulate action by communities, public health professionals, federal and state policy makers, and others to address depression in their populations.
· Download the full report (PDF)
· View the Press Release
· Report Discussion
· More Information on Depression
The Ranking of the States
Using data from nationally representative surveys conducted by the United States government, Mental Health America created two different rankings of the states: one showing the state rankings of depression and one showing the state rank in terms of suicide rates.
Four different measures of depression and mental health status were used to develop one composite measure of the level of depression in a given state. The four measures were: (1) the percentage of the adult population experiencing at least one major depressive episode in the past year, (2) the percentage of the adolescent population (ages 12 to 17) experiencing at least one major depressive episode in the past year, (3) the percentage of the adult population experiencing serious psychological distress, and (4) the average number of days in the past 30 days in which the population reported that their mental health was not good.
Age-adjusted suicide rates were also examined since suicide is the most significant negative outcome of depression.
State Ranking on Depression Status
State Ranking on Suicide Rates
The Top and Bottom 10 States
South Dakota was the healthiest state with respect to depression status. Among adults in South Dakota, 7.31 percent had a major depressive episode in the past year and 11.16 percent experienced serious psychological distress. Among adolescents in South Dakota, 7.4 percent had a major depressive episode in the past year. On average, individuals in South Dakota reported having 2.41 poor mental health days in the past 30 days.
Utah was the most depressed state. Among adults in Utah, 10.14 percent experienced a depressive episode in the past year and 14.58 percent experienced serious psychological distress. Among adolescents in Utah, 10.14 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. Individuals in Utah reported having on average 3.27 poor mental health days in the past 30 days.
In terms of 2004 suicide rates, the District of Columbia was the lowest, followed by New York and Massachusetts. Alaska had the highest suicide rate, followed by Nevada and New Mexico.
The Five Factors Affecting Depression Status
While many factors likely contribute to these differences which are not represented in the state summary data employed in these analyses, a clear and compelling theme emerges from the data included. The availability of and access to mental health services improves mental health outcomes. This is particularly true for suicide, where less difficulty in obtaining needed care, actual utilization of services, and the availability of a professional workforce are all related to decreased rates of death. Similarly, access to health insurance - a key variable in obtaining care - is also related to decreased rates of suicide.
The Five Suggested Public Policy Solutions
The report provides a snapshot of the level of mental health of each state's population, particularly depression - from the "healthiest" state in terms of depression status to the least. Importantly, it links that data to a number of factors that are significantly associated with better depression status and lower suicide rates, and thus provides for the first time a statistical foundation for pathways to reduce depression and its profound consequences. Specifically, the analyses suggest that the following factors reduce depression and suicide:
1. Improving the availability of mental health professionals
2. Reducing cost and other barriers to mental health treatment
3. Encouraging appropriate utilization of mental health therapies
4. Providing a richer socioeconomic environment by improving education levels, economic status and health insurance coverage
5. Legislating mental health benefits that are equivalent to that for physical health
WORD FAITH INDEX