In a recent article, this author wrote about what a missionary can expect after the mission is complete and he or she returns home. In that article, it was brought out that while serving a mission a missionary leaves behind the cares of the world, and the primary focus is on teaching the gospel to the people in his or her assigned area.
Although there are challenges in the mission field, none of those challenges perhaps remotely compare to the trials that a missionary faces upon returning to “normal” day-to-day living. There are some who even find themselves slipping into what may be referred to as Post-Mission Depression or PMD.
Recognizing the Symptoms and Learning How to Cope
A standard dictionary definition of depression states that it is the “severe despondency and dejection, typically felt over a period of time and accompanied by feelings of hopelessness and inadequacy.”
Any type of depression, regardless of how mild or severe, can have adverse effects on a person’s life. The reality is that depression does not show partiality by only affecting a select group of people, and it is not something that a person, not even a person who has just returned from laboring in the Lord’s vineyard, can easily “snap out of.” Depression is a serious physical and emotional condition that could possibly lead to damaging one’s spiritual, social, and mental well-being if not treated.
Giles Andreae, a British artist, poet and greeting card writer, is quoted as having said, “Here is the tragedy: when you are the victim of depression, not only do you feel utterly helpless and abandoned by the world, you also know that very few people can understand, or even begin to believe, that life can be this painful.” There are many missionaries, who after serving a faithful mission for The Church of Jesus Christ, understand Andreae’s sentiments all too well.
So what are the warning signs or symptoms of Post-Mission Depression? In his article on the Mission Home.com website dated 11 August 2014, Logan Hill notes the following:
The symptoms of PMD may include, but are not limited to, random bouts of crying for no reason, a broken heart, the urge to help people or teach the gospel all the time but being unable to do so, not finding joy or satisfaction in doing day-to-day or menial tasks or activities you love, feeling guilty for just sitting around or wasting time, among other symptoms which are commonly found in returned missionaries with PMD.
The Prophet Jeremiah asked the pointed question, “”Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there?” (Jeremiah 8:22). As Hill points out in his article, the “balm in Gilead” that is normally offered to returned missionaries suffering from Post-Mission Depression is to spend time going out teaching with the local missionaries, perform service for others, or read and study the scriptures. These things however, may only appear to be a short-term cure, as Hill points out that the common response is, “It’s just not the same.” Hill further notes that the only real “cure” for PMD is time. He continues:
That, and putting into practice what you’ve been teaching for the last two years by living the gospel of Jesus Christ. Using the Atonement daily is the only hope in treating Post Mission Depression. The first week or so after the missionary is released, the patient will most likely remain in a surreal state of shock. After that is when PMD really begins to kick in, however within three to four weeks, symptoms will start to fade away. If the medicine is used correctly and in the recommended doses, PMD can be cured within a relatively brief period of time.
Counsel and Guidance from an Apostle of the Lord
Elder David A. Bednar, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, in answering a recently returned missionary’s question, gave specific direction as seen in the video below:
Mother Teresa’s words of wisdom echo Elder Bednar’s response. She said, ‘Be faithful in the small things because it is in them that your strength lies.“ And Helaman, in the Book of Mormon, gave this counsel to his sons which is wise counsel for not only for returned missionaries who may be suffering from PMD, but for all to heed:
And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall (Helaman 5:12).