Utah is the #1 state in the US in many ways. Most Mormons per capita, best university nationwide (BYU, of course) and now, again, most depressed state. Way to go, Utah!!
Did you read the article by Russell Goldman? I hope so, because this post isn’t about depression so much as it’s about Mr. Goldman’s sensationalist reporting.
How about that title, huh? “Utah’s Secret Renews Mormonism Debate”. Right away, you get the impression there’s a secret in Utah and it has something to do with the Mormon church. But then you see the subtitle: “Two Studies Find Depression Widespread in Utah”. It’s like those two titles are from different articles.
Now, let’s get into the article.
“The still waters of the Great Salt Lake run deep — and dark.”
You’ve got to be kidding me. That is the saddest piece of melodramatic writing I’ve ever seen. Trying to create a mood, are we?
It starts by telling the story of Wendy. Wendy is depressed because her husband drank, took drugs and slept around on her. Clearly not the Church’s (or Utah’s) fault. She goes on to say there’s a stigma in the area about depression.
“People think it’s a sign of weakness. It means you’re not capable of being a good mother or wife or teacher.”
Again, what does that have to do with the Church? If people are ignorant, that’s not the Church’s fault. The Church teaches education, understanding and compassion. And to seek the advice of competent medical professionals. In fact, that’s why they have the LDS Social Services. Clearly, they want to sweep these problems under the rug.
Then the article starts to REALLY not make sense.
“Wendy’s secret is Utah’s secret. The postcard image of Utah is a state of gleaming cities, majestic mountains and persistently smiling people. But new research shows a very different picture of the state, a snapshot of suicide and widespread depression.”
So, according to this article, other states’ postcards have slogans like “New York: Hookers, Affairs and Hypocrisy…and That’s Just In The Governors Mansion!” or “Washington, D.C.: Guns Don’t Kill People, We Do. A lot” or “Montana: Yawn”. Because only Utah wants to convey a positive image of their state.
But, let’s discuss the depression issue, not just the poor reporting around it. What are the stats?
“some 10.14 percent of adults in Utah ‘experienced a depressive episode in the past year and 14.15 percent experienced serious psychological distress. … Individuals in Utah reported having on average 3.27 poor mental health days in the past 30 days.'”
10% had A depressive episode in the last year? And how many had more than one? Oh that’s right, this is alarmist reporting, I forgot. We can’t print that. 15% had serious psychological distress. What does that even mean? My dad burned off his arm hair lighting the gas fire on Christmas morning one year. Does that count? “Individuals” in Utah reported…how many? Two, three? Come on people!
I have to admit, though, 15% doesn’t seem like too many people. Certainly not a majority, right?
“The reason for Utah’s mass depression”…
What? 15% is “mass depression”? WTH(heck)?
Okay, well, let’s say that’s true. What’s the cause of all this sadness?
“The reason for Utah’s mass depression, however, is unknown.”
What? Then how is this renewing any Mormon debate?
“Psychiatrists point to several factors that could contribute to Utah’s high levels of depression: limited mental health resources, restricted access to treatment as a result of cost, poor quality of resources and a varied list of other factors, including an underfunded educational system and a culture deeply rooted in the Mormon faith.”
Huh? “Could contribute”? In other words, we didn’t actually study the causes, but, off the top of our heads, here’s what it could be. Wow, that’s scientific. And scientists make fun of Creationists for lack of evidence? Right.
Also, nice of the paper to pick one potential cause from a list of others and put it in their headline as though it were the only cause.
Is that the only link to the Church?
“Seventy percent of Utah’s residents are Mormon.”
Really? Let’s fact check that. The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life research from 2007 says that number is 58%. The Salt Lake Tribune reported in 2006 that “The often cited claim that Utah is 70 percent Mormon is not true – and hasn’t been true for more than a decade, according to the church numbers.” Not true since 1996, huh? Wow. Great job on that fact checking. That took me all of four minutes.
So, with just over 50% of the state Mormon and only 10-15% of residents having one or more depressive episodes or have serious psychological distress, potentially all of those 10-15% could have come from the non-Mormon half of the state, right? Or been equally divided between the two. But we’ll never know because this reporter and those psychologists didn’t do the research to back up the claims they’ve made. They just posited blithely on the cause of what may or may not be a serious problem and decided to go public with it. How professional.
A better headline and angle on this article might be, “Psychologists Still Looking For Cause of Utah’s Large Number of Depressed Residents”, or something like that. Oh, but that doesn’t have any of the keywords that sell papers or get Google ads. Nice work, Mr. Goldman. You’ve now pulled the ABC news equivalent of “BRITNEY SPEARS TRIED TO KILL PARIS HILTON’S DOG WHILE SELLING VIAGRA TO ELIOT SPITZER”. Oh wait, so did I…just now…oops.