In examining the various reporting that has taken place in connection with his recently announced disciplinary hearing, one of the lines of argument that he has been pursuing is that Mormon faith and culture may be in various ways unhealthy.
In his press release, it is mentioned among his other talking points
Having counseled as a mental health professional with dozens of young LGBT Mormons who were/are tormented over their inability to change their sexual orientation, I was deeply concerned that such language from Elder Oaks and others would contribute to, and possibly accelerate the rash of suicides experienced by LDS LGBT members.
It also comes up from time to time when he offers his views to the media, for example, this recent post on the alleged coming crackdown on Mormon liberals
A lot of Mormons will just internalize it and suffer in silence,” Dehlin says. He attributes high rates of depression, substance abuse and LGBT suicides in Utah to Mormon pressures to conform.
While it would undoubtedly be interesting to look around and find all the places where he has made this claim, it doesn’t sound interesting to me (is that doubting my undoubtedly?) so I’ll let these relatively spare examples suffice and try and follow Shakespeare’s advice to be brief rather than tedious.
There are two claims here that I will briefly address. The first is the LGBT suicide claim. Dehlin claims that LDS people who are attracted to the same-sex experience a “rash of suicides” and that this stems from “Mormon pressure to conform” if he is being cited correctly in the “crackdown” article referenced above. Now I think most LDS people will agree that suicide is tragic regardless of who we are deprived of in consequence of it, and regardless of what they may have struggled with during their painfully brief stay in our company, and it is a behavior that we should discourage with all diligence. However, it simply isn’t factual (or if it is he has yet to point us to a source reference) to say that we have higher rates of this as a people. This is discussed rather more thoroughly here, and I highly recommend those interested in this subject to read the article.
The other claim is that Utah experiences high rates of “depression [and] substance abuse… …because of Mormon pressures to conform”. As a mental health professional it would behoove him to be more cautious with his interpretation of data, be more aware of recent research done on this topic, and thus avoid misusing mental health data for ideological ends. Recent research has shown that Utah is actually quite comparable to her neighbors and that the issue has to do with altitude, rather than ideology. Again, I highly recommend reading the article as it fills in a lot of the information about the mechanism and evens helps explain the substance use that Dehlin laments as being the result of the Mormons.
In further contrast to Dehlin’s claims, there are a number of significant benefits to being a member of the Church beyond the obvious spiritual ones. These include:
- Long life
- Reduced risk of heart disease
- Low suicide rates
- Relatively successful in business and school
- Uncommonly balanced male and female religiosity
- Greater general well-being
- Score high in measures of religious knowledge
To sum up, participation in the Church notably improves the quality and quantity of life of its members. The observation that Utah experiences certain mental health challenges has been shown to be most likely a consequence of altitude rather than the Saints overdoing it. Likewise the claim that LGBT suicide is more frequent among Church members than among non-members is not supported by available data, and is in fact contradicted by them. The references article deal with each of these topics at greater length, and come highly recommended as resources and further reading.