Jane Clayson Johnson grew up playing the violin and attended BYU on a music scholarship, then changed her studies to journalism. After graduating, she worked for KSL News in Salt Lake City, then moved to Los Angeles where she was a correspondent for programs such as ABC World News Tonight and Good Morning America. She was later an anchor on The Early Show and a correspondent for CBS. Jane left her full-time job when she married her husband, Mark Johnson, to be a wife and mother. They have two children together and reside in Boston, where she also works as a fill-in host for NPR’s On Point. She has written two books, I am a Mother and Silent Souls Weeping. Jane Clayson Johnson
5:45 About her book, I am a Mother
6:20 Hosts On Point for NPR
6:50 Considers self a storyteller
7:25 Authoring new book, Silent Souls Weeping, on the subject of depression, especially as it relates to her own experience with clinical depression
9:25 Wondered “How can I be so depressed when I am so blessed?”
11:35 After receiving treatment and beginning to feel better, Jane began to speak with others and realize how many people suffer with depression. She began interviewing others, and the book was born.
12:30 All interviews are with faithful Latter-day Saints who have struggled with depression
13:00 Kurt recommends the book for church leaders who are battling with depression, especially since as a leader he did not have any framework to help people who are suffering—no advice to offer beyond “go see a professional”; the book helps him understand different perspectives.
14:25 Jane has learned that we need to reach out and help each other, because so many of us don’t speak about the suffering; feels the worst part of depression is the “profound isolation”
16:30 So often we suffer in silence—it’s where the title of the book comes from, Silent Souls Weeping
17:35 Depression is easy to hide at church
18:00 One bishop made a list of the mental illnesses he saw in his ward and concluded about about one quarter of his ward were affected, and that was just the issues that he knew about
19:35 Depression can block us from feeling the spirit, God’s love
20:10 “It was like the most important part of my soul had been carved out of me”
20:20 When you are depressed and active in a church that often equates happiness with righteousness, depression can be tormenting
22:15 One sister described a sense of desperation, seeking help anywhere, felt depression was a sign that she was somehow unworthy, hypocritical
23:30 Depression happens to us regardless of our circumstances, the loss of the spirit may be the most distressing part of depression and why we need to seek treatment
23:50 Kurt reminds us depression does not only affect those who “don’t understand” the gospel but can affect anyone
24:20 One theme of the book is how depression affects our ability to feel the spirit. Another theme is the stigma attached to depression.
25:25 Kurt tells the story of one sister suffering with depression wished to be in the place of a sister with cancer’s shoes because of the extreme stigma and embarrassment she felt related to suffering with depression
26:30 Jane explains the woman with cancer and woman with severe depression were both admitted to the hospital at the same time—they were sisters. The depressed sister felt like people would treat her and her family differently if she had cancer instead of something stigmatized like depression.
27:25 Depression is not the result of personal inadequacy
27:40 It is not a black mark on your character; when you are in the depths of a clinical depression you cannot pull yourself up by your bootstraps, you are not going to fix it with hard work and discipline
28:05 One woman shared her experience, and her father said why don’t you put that all in a box, and just ignore it — that’s not particularly helpful
28:20 One BYU student had terrible symptoms of depression, prescribed medication, and was so embarrassed that it was a personal failure on her part and flushed the pills down the toilet, suffered for years until she finally went to a doctor for help. Today she is a “stigma-buster” for depression.
29:40 Kurt: How can leaders become stigma-busters?
30:00 Jane says you have to educate yourself about the signs and symptoms of mental illness
30:25 Acknowledge the reality of the biological component and the treatment options
30:40 Bishops are not counselors or therapists, and we should not confuse them with someone in a professional role
31:10 Jane’s neighboring stake in New Hampshire has developed a formal initiative that has a bulls-eye on mental health, a wellness committee off of the stake welfare committee, called M25 using Matthew 25 as an inspiration
31:40 The M25 committee is a resource for all things mental health in the stake, specifically focused on connecting local church leaders to members of the stake with specialized knowledge and experience with mental health issues
32:30 Jane has heard from church leaders that many of their most difficult, dysfunctional cases are driven by underlying mental health problems
34:25 Kurt says you don’t need to understand clinical depression, but as a bishop, having a toolkit available is helpful; leaders don’t need to be the therapist, but they can be reassured that they can help provide resources
35:20 Jane received a text from a friend, who spoke in church about her story with depression
36:05 “The room went silent.” She felt the response was amazing and overwhelmingly positive, and there is talk about her giving her talk in other units.
36:50 Kurt says after reading the book, he thinks that our typical approach to mental illness—to call in a professional to speak on a fifth Sunday—is less effective than asking members to share their personal experiences
37:35 In Jane’s experience, she has learned it’s not a one-off kind of thing; you must keep the conversation going to change the narrative about depression
38:30 Brene Brown: Speak the shame to get rid of it
38:50 “Depression thrives in secrecy but shrinks in empathy”
39:15 Young man who has returned early from his mission, is staying in his room because he feels so terrible and the response he was getting from members. A high councilman shared his experience coming home early from his mission and what it was like when the boy came home, it was a powerful example of what it means to mourn with those that mourn
41:40 Kurt: we leaders often get in fix it mode and that removes us from being in a state of empathy
42:30 BYU study, Daniel K Judd: the more that respondents felt that their salvation was primarily a result of their own good works (legalism), the higher were their scores on measures of shame, anxiety, depression, and obsessive compulsive disorders
43:05 Those who understand the principles of grace have dramatically lower scores on all these measures
43:30 Kurt: leaders can default to empathy and never forget to remind members about grace
43:40 Jane learned a lot about grace with her experience
44:00 One woman: I give myself grace
44:20 Jane feels the conversation about perfectionism is important to have, the need to have a veneer of perfection is damaging to our mental health
44:40 We put the scripture “be ye therefore perfect” on steroids; We try to live up to an unattainable standard, and when we do we are not authentic
45:20 Jane’s experience with art therapy: who am I on the inside, and who do I want others to see; the more similar our outside and inside are, the healthier our mental state
47:20 Stop comparing yourself
47:50 Depression and youth/missionaries
48:10 Kurt: what can we understand about full disclosure and the benefits of it (when someone comes home from a mission for depression)?
49:50 Jane: it doesn’t always happen that missionaries receive compassionate support from leaders; one woman was suicidal on her mission and had never been depressed before, but her mission president was not understanding
50:45 There is such shame and stigma attached to coming home early that many missionaries leave the church; we must help these young people, not ask them why they came home early
51:50 Of 80,000 missionaries who serve, 6% come home early, and 36% come home due to mental health issues (most recent statistics Jane could find)
52:20 Kurt: regarding suicide, what would you tell a new bishop to prepare for that scenario
53:50 Jane: turn to Elder Renlund, who recently gave some great interviews on this topic, and he’s an apostle and medical doctor; he reminded us it is totally safe to ask people if they are having thoughts of harming themselves. The idea that asking someone about suicidal thoughts causes people to commit suicide has been debunked.
54:55 There has been a 28% increase in the suicide rate in the US in the past 20 years; in Utah it is the leading cause of death for young people ages 15-24
55:30 LGBTQ+ youth who are rejected by their parents are at 8x higher risk of suicide
57:20 Not talking about suicide can keep people from seeing possibilities or cut them off from help
59:00 Jane feels depression has actually strengthened her testimony; depression tested her, but on the other side of it she recognizes how profoundly the concept of grace plays into her life; she has a hope in the Atonement that she could not have imagined; she knows what it is to call on grace in your darkest moments; she chooses to believe—it’s easy to talk yourself out of faith, but she knows now more than ever that she has a loving Father and a Redeemer; she is grateful for her journey and experience.
Silent Souls Weeping
I am a Mother
Official Church Mental Health and Suicide Prevention sites
Daniel K. Judd study on religion and mental health