Mission Prep: Emotional Health – Before and After Service

On December 11, 2013 by MMM

Missionary pamphlet

Back in October, I wrote two posts encouraging our youth to serve their missions when the time is right, and for the rest of us to back off and not be judgmental when the missionary doesn’t jet off to the MTC the second they turn 18/19. For the most part they were well received, but there was a little bit of pushback. Here are the links:

FYI: 18 is Not the New 19

Part 2: 18 is Not the New 19 – The Elephant in the Room

This past week, I read a bunch of stuff, including an article by Tad Walch of the Deseret News, that dug into the reason why many missionaries come home early, and the stress that awaits them. He also discusses what the Church is doing to offer better emotional preparation and support for out missionaries, and discusses what we can do as congregations to be supportive of those who struggle.

Here is the article: Many Missionaries Who Return Home Feel Some Failure. LDS Missionaries Developing Strategies to Cope With Stress.

Included in the article is a reference to a Church resource booklet for missionaries entitled, Adjusting to Missionary Life. (As of right now, it costs a dollar, and is backordered.)

I would recommend that any parent who currently has a missionary in the field, or is planning on sending one out in the future should read this. There many, many interesting and important ideas and new research in this article. This is not a short read. Here are a couple of snippets:

“Anxiety and depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder are the three main reasons we are seeing people coming home,” Sandberg said, “and it’s the inability to handle new stressors.”

“A lot of these show up at this age because of the combination of a predisposition and the stress of that period of life of emancipating and being on your own and becoming an adult in your own right,”

“Good physical and mental health is vital,” President Hinckley said. “There are parents who say, ‘If only we can get Johnny on a mission, then the Lord will bless him with health.’ It seems not to work out that way. Rather, whatever ailment or physical or mental shortcoming a missionary has when he comes into the field only becomes aggravated under the stress of the work.”

I’m sure many of you that live in Utah have already seen this, but to those of you who don’t read the Deseret News, I encourage you to read this article. It’s BonaFide.

More info:

There is an interesting piece from the Washington Post about the same subject, slightly different take. It is worth a read as well. Early Returning Mormon Missionaries Often Face Stigma.

In 2011, there was an article in The Ensign called, Preparing Emotionally for Missionary Service. It is a great read for both prospective missionaries and their parents.

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3 Responses to “Mission Prep: Emotional Health – Before and After Service”

  • Christi

    We just sent our daughter off on her mission 2 weeks ago. Your thoughts and opinions mirrored my own in your previous posts (which is why I started following you). Thanks for forwarding these articles so that I can help our daughter with the inevitable stressors that will come.

  • Kay

    Totally agree. Plus, I believe our children need to decide on this kind of service all on their own, with parental input as they desire it. Parents should “train up a child’, then back off. I can only speak of my experience with my two boys. Neither went on their missions right out of the gate. They both went when they were ready. I believe this made them work harder and commit stronger to the service, because it was totally their own idea and own buy-in. Being 18 does not automatically qualify one to serve. Some 18 (or 19, etc) year olds are not mature enough yet. Please keep them home until they are. OK, I’m done.

  • Anonymous

    Great post! I especially liked the article by Tad Walch. I came home from my mission 17 years ago with bipolar disorder. I realize the article isn’t talking about mental illness as serious as that, but I feel that a booklet like ‘Adjusting to Missionary Life’ would’ve been invaluable to me. I’m glad to see the Church address this.