May 20, 2024

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Mental health talk by Elder Kopischke: Leader shares personal story

During his ministry, Elder Erich W. Kopischke said he has encountered hundreds of individuals and families dealing with mental illness. It has even affected his own family.

“These include clinical depression, severe anxiety, bipolar disorder, ADHD — and sometimes a combination of them all,” he said. “It is worldwide, covering every continent and culture, and affecting all — young, old, rich and poor. Members of the church have not been excluded.”

The General Authority Seventy from Germany addressed the important topic in his remarks during the Saturday afternoon session of the 191st Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The reaction to Elder Kopischke’s remarks were overwhelmingly positive.

What key points did Elder Kopischke’s talk give on mental health?

  • “To combat such deception, it is important to remember that the Savior loves each of His Father’s children. … Challenges often indicate a need for additional tools and support and are not a character defect.”
  • Elder Kopischke related a personal experience about his son dealing with severe panic attacks, anxiety and depression, which led to him coming home early from his Latter-day Saint mission. His son fell into hopelessness and considered suicide, but with time his condition improved thanks to an outpouring of love, along with medical, therapeutic and spiritual care.
  • “It can be difficult for parents to identify their children’s struggles, but we must educate ourselves,” Elder Kopischke said. He urged families to study the topic of “mental health” in the Life Help section of the Gospel Library app.
  • “There is not a simple cure-all for emotional and mental wellness. … Regardless of our mental and emotional well-being, focusing on growth is healthier than obsessing about our shortcomings.”
  • “Educating ourselves about mental illness prepares us to help ourselves and others who might be struggling. Open and honest discussions with one another will help this important topic to receive the attention it deserves.”
  • “One of the first things we need to learn is that we are certainly not alone.”
  • “Learning will lead to more understanding, more acceptance, more compassion, more love. It can lessen tragedy, while helping us develop and manage healthy expectations and healthy interactions.”
  • “We need to constantly watch over each other. We must love one another and be less judgmental — especially when our expectations are not immediately met.”
  • Those personally affected by mental illness need to “hold fast to your covenants, even if you might not feel God’s love at this time.”

Reaction to Elder Kopischke’s talk

Many listening to Elder Kopischke’s talk reacted on social media.

What other church leaders have said about mental illness

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke about mental illness in his October 2013 talk, “Like a Broken Vessel.”

“So how do you respond when mental or emotional challenges confront you or those you love?” the apostle said. “Above all never lose faith in your Father in Heaven who loves you more than you can comprehend. … Faithfully pursue the time-tested devotional practices that bring the Spirit of the Lord into your life. Seek the counsel of those who hold keys for your spiritual well being. Ask for and cherish priesthood blessings. Take the sacrament every week and hold fast to the perfecting promises of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Believe in miracles.”

Elder Holland’s talk helped Craig Rydalch, a former University of Utah basketball player, in his battle with mental illness.

Sister Reyna I. Aburto, second Counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, also spoke about mental health in October 2019.

“When we open up about our emotional challenges, admitting we are not perfect, we give others permission to share their struggles,” she said. “Together we realize there is hope and we do not have to suffer alone.”