UVU students conduct research on depression among LDS men

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Photo illustration by Gabi Cambell


UVU students are beginning a study on men associated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who are suffering from depression.  They will be using results from a quantitative survey to identify common patterns in depression among men who are involved in the LDS community.

Studies are showing that depression is a growing problem in the United States. Nationwide research shows Utah as one of the leading states for depression rates and with Utah’s predominantly LDS culture there is an interest in identifying any correlation with religious beliefs and causes of depression.

While depression is not exclusive to members of the LDS faith, UVU student Fred Ward has chosen to center his study on men in the LDS community for a research project he is leading.

“I’ve been a member of the LDS church since I turned 20,” said Ward.  “Personally I’ve noticed a difference in how people react or feel towards situations inside and outside of the LDS community.  I have a strong interest in identifying if there are any particular factors that commonly lead to depression among LDS men.”

Women appear to be affected more by clinical depression than men.  Survey results from The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration show that nearly twice as many women identify as being clinically depressed than men report.  There is evidence that suggests depression among men often goes unreported to medical specialists.

“Men simply don’t like talking about these sort of things,” said Ward.  “It’s been a little tough finding volunteers for the research.  It’s not that there’s a lack of interest.  Discussing depression just isn’t seen as an acceptable, manly thing to do.”

Reluctance from men to discuss depression or seek medical help for depression is a common trend in the United States and social expectations for men involved with the LDS community may add to this issue.

“I think that there are a number of issues that go unnoticed within the LDS community, “ said Matt Forbes, a student involved in the research. ““In that culture, you are expected to be self-reliant and to live up to a certain standard.  For example, men are expected to be strong leaders within the home, and outside of the home for that matter.  Since depression is viewed by many as a weakness, it tends to get shoved under the rug.”

A main goal for the team involved on this research is to identify any common sources of depression among the men participating in the study.

“I believe that bringing depression out into the open and discussing how it affects men’s lives will help reduce the stigma that perpetuates suffering in silence,” said Melissa Wilkins, a student involved in the research.  “The more we understand about the causes and effects of depression, the better we will become at treating it.”

The research will consist of a single confidential interview that will run for 45-60 minutes with Fred Ward and one student research assistant.  A series of five questions will be asked to the research volunteer.  These questions were formed to identify possible issues that have led to depression and how the volunteers currently feel about their lives.

“This study is not connected to the LDS church in anyway,” said Ward.  “We will be publishing our results though and we hope it will generate ideas for solutions that will help those being treated for depression.”

Ward was inspired by the research Dr. Kristine Doty, professor at UVU’s Behavioral Science department, conducted on depression among LDS women.  Part of Dr. Doty’s research found that in the LDS community there is a unique pressure for a type of perfection women feel, and that can lead to depression.

Depression among college students is a growing problem.  A recent survey by the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors said that 70 percent of surveyed counseling center directors are reporting that the number of students suffering from serious psychological struggles such as depression and anxiety have increased in recent years.

UVU’s student health services offers resources for students struggling with depression including meetings with mental health professionals and self-help guides for understanding and coping with depression.

The students behind this study are still seeking LDS males to participate in their research.  The only qualifications necessary for volunteers are that a medical doctor, therapist, or psychiatrist has officially diagnosed them with depression.  To sign up for the study or for any questions on the research, students are directed to e-mail Fred Ward at [email protected]