The mission to overcome depression

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BYU student Scott Marrott in his mission in Los Angeles. Marrott had to return home to receive depression treatment before his mission president would allow him to return. (Scott Marrott)
BYU student Scott Marrott in his mission in Los Angeles. Marrott had to return home to receive depression treatment before his mission president would allow him to return. (Scott Marrott)

BYU sophomore Scott Marrott’s struggle with depression almost ruined his mission, but getting screened and put on the right medications made all the difference. “It was like night and day,” Marrott said. “I was better.”

The BYU Counseling and Psychological Services Center is offering free, confidential screenings from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in 2590 WSC on Thursday, Oct. 9, for National Depression Screening Day.

“If you’re sad more days than not for two weeks straight, a screening would definitely be recommended,” said Michael Brooks, a psychologist and director of the University Accessibility Center.

Getting a depression screening sooner rather than later can speed along the recovery process, as it did for Marrott.

It was Marrott’s senior year of high school when depression hit. The stress of applying to college was his trigger. “I was ashamed of it,” Marrott said. “I (thought) it was more of a character flaw that I needed to get over. … I thought I needed to man up.”

But it wasn’t until six months into Marrott’s mission that he hit rock bottom. He couldn’t sleep, eat or concentrate. He described a moment at a baptism when he knew he should feel happy but didn’t. “I tried to be happy, I tried to put on a face, but deep down, I was like, ‘Why do I feel this way?'”

He worked with his mission president and got on some medication to stick it out, but the antidepressants made his symptoms worse before they got better. He said he had the worst mood swings he’d ever had for two weeks on his mission.

He met with a counselor who advised him to go home, but it wasn’t until he made a deal with his mission president to let him come back on his mission that Marrott agreed to go home.

After he got home and woke up the next morning, he said, “It was a nightmare. I thought I had failed.”

Richard Anderson, who helped create the missionary handbook “Adjusting to Missionary Life” and works for the Church’s missionary mental department, was fortunately in Marrott’s home ward.

Anderson helped Marrott get on the proper medication, and Marrott made a full recovery two months later. Marrott reentered the mission field the exact day he would have originally come home.

“It was weird,” Marrott said after seeing all of the missionaries leave whom he originally entered with. “But I was just happy to be back. … Best six months of my life. It was great. I learned a lot.”

Marrott served not only the people in his mission in California but other missionaries and people at home who struggled with depression.

“There’s several people that I know who refuse to seek help because they think it’s just part of them, but … it can be treated,” Marrott said.

Utah has the highest rate of mental illness in the United States. Some argue the LDS culture of perfectionism makes LDS members prime candidates for depression.

Elder Holland advised members in his October 2013 General Conference address that they should treat depression just like any other medical disease. “If you had appendicitis, God would expect you to seek a priesthood blessing and get the best medical care available,” Elder Holland said. “So too with emotional disorders.”

With the “Adjusting to Missionary Life” handbook and Elder Holland’s talk about treating depression, the Church has addressed a need for open discussion about mental health. “In preventing illness wherever possible, watch for the stress indicators in yourself and in others you may be able to help,” Elder Holland stated.

Marrott recommended that the best way to help others with depression is to have people share what they’re thinking and to invite them to do things so they can feed off the optimism around them.

Once a person struggling with depression can acknowledge that it’s out of their control, they can “start to see things more realistically and acknowledge the A.N.T.s: avoid negative thinking,” Marrott said.

After coping with his situation, Marrott said, depression can “help us understand the concepts of hope, humility (and) when to turn to God.”

For more information about BYU Counseling and Psychological Services’ free screenings, click here.

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