JWs Depression and Suicide

by 00DAD 44 Replies latest watchtower scandals

  • 00DAD

    Since Jehovah's Witnesses supposedly have "The Truth" and are part of God's Visible Organization living in a "spiritual paradise" you would naturally expect that they should be the happiest people on earth! This clearly is NOT the case.

    wha happened? and I were having a conversation about a congregation we know of in the San Fernando Valley, California where within a relatively short period of time (a couple of years or so), and in completely unrelated incidents, two elders' wives killed themselves. (This happened 10-ish years ago).

    It would no doubt be informative for someone with the appropriate qualifications to conduct a complete scientific, sociologically-sound, clinical study into the subject of JWs and Depression and Suicide.

    In lieu of that, perhaps we could collect anecdotal accounts related to the subject. Please share accounts or situations which you know about where JWs:

    • Exhibited extreme forms of depression?
    • Attempted or committed suicided?

    Please keep it to situations which you personally know are true. Let's not have any hearsay JW Urban legends. Also, this subject is by definition complicated. Many factors contribute to depression and suicide. However, the sad irony is that this should be minimal, if at all, among "God's Blessed Nation" and yet it is not. Some indicators are that depression and suicide might even be higher among JWs than the general population! I've been trying to track down some solid evidence in that regard, but it's quite elusive.

    Finally, PLEASE DO NOT USE NAMES. We don't need to disrespect the personal privacy of people whose lives are filled with enough trouble already. The important thing would be to discuss situations that show the disparity between how "The Truth" is supposed to affect people's lives and how it often actually causes the very problems it is supposed to prevent.

  • N.drew

    There are two kinds of depression that I have information about. One kind I suffered. It is bouts of worthlessness. The other kind I have only heard of affects the whole life of a person. I think it's called clinical depression.

    I will tell you about my kind.

    It began as a child. It might have been exacerbated by living with father who was alcoholic. And a mother who was fine, but had little skill in the way of nurture. It would come in bouts of loneliness, feeling of unworthiness, and hopelessnes. It started as "I wish I was never born" to "I wish I were dead" to attempted suicide (twice). When I met the Witnesses, I did not feel alone any more. I finally rid myself of the hate of self. But we all know, do we not, that it is not long lasting. The boredom and the obvious strain of all we had commanded upon us to do took it's toll. Then haha I got in trouble. Criminal Minds (TV) calls it "The Stresser". The brother's handling the trouble didn't do it very well. (Even later I heard from a friend, not the brother who botched it, that he confessed to her that they did not handle it well.) It was like learning mom and dad saying no more Santa Claus sic for you! But it was way worse then that. The feeling of hopelessness with it's accompaning thoughts of suicide came back. Of course I did not attempt it again, but it is very powerful and can become an addiction.

    ps the trouble came when i gave a pioneer sister a slap. What is so funny about that? Heaven might be debating forever if she deserved it or not. And I think thta's funny. Am I crazy?

  • Alfred

    I've only heard of such suicides from nearby congo's... but it was always explained away as the victim's fault...


    -Watchtower November 1, 1987 page 14

    Yet, the Bible’s words are not easily brushed aside: “God is not one to be mocked. [“There is no thumbing your nose at God.”—Byington] For whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap; because he who is sowing with a view to his flesh will reap corruption from his flesh.” (Galatians 6:7, 8) Lewd behavior often results in sickness, or even untimely death, from diseases such as syphilis, gonorrhea, and AIDS, to name the outstanding ones. Mental and emotional imbalance, depression, and even suicide are also at times the result of promiscuous life-styles. So while those sharing in immoral practices may laugh in scorn at those trying to keep themselves clean, the laughter stops as the mockers begin ‘reaping what they have sown.’—Compare Romans 1:24-27.
  • dropoffyourkeylee

    This subject has concerned me greatly, as I have lost 3 friends, 2 of them dear friends who I miss greatly, to suicide in the past few years. I have come to believe that the ridiculous policies and characteristics of the religion itself were largely responsible. This has occurred in two adjoining congregations located about 40 miles apart in rural midwest US, each with about 100-120 publishers.

    The first was in 2007-2008. Elder and wife, mid 50's, children at the age of moving out, wanted to go into the Spanish speaking work. The Society and Witness culture - you know what I am talking about- influenced them to sell their house and serve temporarily in the Dominican Republic, with the idea of immersing themselves in the language to learn it better. After 6 months they returned broke and he was literally burned out, as they had him giving virtually every meeting part, in Spanish yet. Also he had been taking an anti-depressant, and without health insurance he decided he could do without it. He had returned to the home congregation for a few months before they were going to serve in a Spanish speaking congregation in the US southeast. He killed himself on a cold weekday afternoon in March. I think about him virtually every day, as he was at my house in the weeks before they went to the DR, and I got the feeling he wanted to talk about it, but I didn't take the time to sit down with him. It haunts me to this day and I have since resolved to never again let such an opportunity pass. He was an active elder in good standing at the time of his death.

    The second was in 2009. A sister with a great deal of intelligence and drive, was unhappy with being a 'Stepford' witness wife... she liked to work and was of the type who should have gone to college and find a measure of fulfilment in a career. Her teenage son was disfellowshipped. She wanted desperately to move out of the area and start something different. She got an appartment 80 miles away and separated from her husband. She overdosed in the spring of '09. She was not actively associating at the time, but was not disfellowshipped. She was a dear friend and I thought the world of her.

    The third was in 2010. An active ministerial servant, married with young children, took his own life. Depression over losing his job, starting a different job with lower pay, prospect of losing his house, perhaps other reasons I do not know about, as I did not know him really well.

    I have not given any names or exact locations because, in agreement with the previous poster, we need to think about the surviving family and children, who would be pained to see their loved one's name pop up on a google search in this context.

  • Nice_Dream

    There was a wonderful woman in my hall 15 years ago who took her life. Her children had recently moved out, and her husband was an MS or elder (can't remember). He was a super nice man too. He was the one who found her...heartbreaking.

    They had a funeral for her at the Kingdom Hall, and I remember the elder giving the talk said we're all friends here, but she died thinking she had none. That was the most real thing I heard off the stage. I think about her often. She had such beautiful children, and never got to see her grandchildren.

    I also had a friend growing up in the Hall who attempted suicide a few times. She had a horrible home life with an abusive father and the elders encouraged her Mom to stay with him. Thankfully her Mom eventually moved out, and they all have better lives without him in it. I detested when he would be asked to say a prayer at the meetings because I knew he was a horrible person.

  • Balaamsass

    Having been treated for a bout of clinical depression in the past, and having family and friends treated for it (including speaking with some mental health people), I believe much can be traced to Watchtower teachings and culture. Currently my wife is going through some talk therapy for leaving the Borg. The Watchtower Society has been ANTI mental health treatment for years. Some minor issues that might get "nipped in the bud" get worse when untreated. JWs are conditioned to feel unworthy from childhood. Seems like 1/2 of most halls are on anti-depression meds. I know a LOT of ex bethelites, pioneers, elders, C.O. wives, and missionaries suffering from clinical depression.

    My past PERSONAL belief for WHY all the depression is that no matter WHAT you do for WBTS, it was NEVER ENOUGH (and the mistaken view they represent Jehovah). Pioneering..tsk..tsk..someone is doing that in an iron lung or in a wheelchair. Working at Bethel 40-50 hrs a week..tsk...tsk some bethelite is aux. pioneering as well...or volunteered to serve in an AFRICAN branch. Missionary...tsk..tsk other missionaries travel in dugout canoes and battle crocs!! Make ALL the meetings..you didn't answer enough or were LATE! LOL!! Yet the Governing Body sit on their asses. NEVER COOK, SHOP, CLEAN, DO LAUNDRY, PAY BILLS, RAISE KIDS, GO TO SCHOOL, MOW THE LAWN, FIX THINGS, WORRY ABOUT BILLS, CARE FOR ELDERLY PARENTS. Most rarely go in service. They love to "Bind heavy loads" on the sheep.

    "The beatings will continue until morale improves" SHOULD be the YEAR TEXT behind the podium. Staying up late for meetings, up early on weekends, travel time, meeting time, Assembly expenses, congregation needs..keeping the house PERFECT..the CAR..PERFECT...the kids..PERFECT...the clothes...PERFECT......people just get WORN out, sleep deprived, beat down and discouraged. The recommended "theocratic activities schedule adds about 15 extra hours to most publishers 40-50 hr work week. The frazzled publishers see assembly parts every Sat. with perfect families eating PERFECT homebaked cookies while discussing the dailey text PERFECTLY. What a CROC. No wonder so many publishers feel "Less than, and unworthy". They feel forced to EARN salvation. I also think most downhearted JWs have deep doubts about the Governing body. They say" the end is near", yet make 10 year realestate and financial plans. They say they are "spirit directed", but flip flop yearly. They say they are non-profit but store-up billions.

    Jesus said his "yoke would be lighter" than the Jews..heck.. being an orthodox Jew would be a breeze compared to being one of Jehovah's Witnesses. (Grow a beard, no pork, no service, and one meeting a week. For women NO COOKING OR CLEANING ON THE SABBATH !).

    Yes I believe "break-downs" are much more common among JWs, and very common in Bethel and Missionary homes compared to the general public.

  • 3rdgen

    I agree with all the comments so far and add this: Witnesses are given mixed messages about "Jehovah's blessing". For example, years ago when my 1st husband was disfellowshipped I became understadably distraught. I talked to an elder(my uncle) about the fact that our family was already having so many problems,I was afraid he might snap. His answer? "It looks like JEHOVAH ISN'T BLESSING YOU. I was KILLING myself to do all the society expected of a christian wife and mother and I was abandoned by the leadership who blamed God. On the other hand I knew many in the org who had broken lots of rules and were flourishing. They would often say after their 3rd trip to Europe "IT WAS A BLESSING FROM JEHOVAH" If the DO MORE religion is true, it would logically follow that pioneers and missionaries would be healthier and have plenty of money. Since virtually all JW's love God and want to please him, they feel horrible about themselves and resentful of others when God is portreyed as so completely unfair. This is where the disconnect comes in: They don't want to believe that Jehovah is unfair with his blessings, they don't want to believe the religion is false, so they're left feeling miserable and UNLOVED by God and His people. Who WOULD NOT be depressed?

  • N.drew

    Dear 3rdgen, how did your husband fare?

  • 3rdgen

    To N Drew, Thanks for asking. It turns out that my ex was a con artist who had convinced me that the elders had trumped up charges against him. It was easy to pull off since the committee was comprised of men who constantly acted like Pharasees. My ex's father was an elder much like Eli in the Bible. He backed up his son and hid many of his sins from everyone including me. None of his family shunned him. (they lived on our property) With all of our support he was reinstated in only 8mos. A couple of years later we moved out of the area. I had no idea my husband was only "posing" and living a double life. He was such a good con he soon was appointed a MS in our new hall. All the while he was a drug dealer with a meth habbit and multiple mistresses. The only reason I found out was that one of the girlfriends wanted to marry him. He had told her he was getting a divorce but, of course never did. SHE was a biker chick he should't have crossed. She outed him not only to me but the elders as well. He was DF'ed again, we divorced, and our kids were distroyed. A few years later he messed with the 12 yr old daughter of a leader of an infamous Motorcycle gang. He died "mysteriously" within the year.

  • N.drew

    Every day it is proved that "truth is stranger than fiction". I hope you and the children have recovered. I have a neighbor who is a sister (JW) and she had a similar story of a husband in good standing yet leading a double life.

  • NewChapter

    I personally have not had to be treated for depression or panic attacks since walking away. Within a year of my baptism, I was put on anti-depressants, had my first panic attacks, and regularly experienced suicidal feelings. I remained that way for 20 years. I never did enough, was never assured of god's love, every decision, every action, every word had to be scrutinized for motive. Was it good or evil, had I committed an unforgivable sin, woud I make it all the way to armegeddon only to be told "you didn't do enough!" When I should have been resting, I was in service. When I should have been recharging, I was forced out after a long day of work, into the snow or whatever to sit in a room full of people with a program that constantly reminded me how far short I fell.

    Miserable. Today, no anti depressants and no panic attacks. I am so much calmer, it's amazing. Every pioneer I knew was either on antidepressants or expressing deep depression, anxiety or obsessive compulsive behavior. I was so used to seeing pioneers with tears in their eyes, I just accepted it as normal. Proof that we were in the last days.



  • TheClarinetist

    I have met someone who while they were in experienced hallucinations to the point that at one point they thought that they had murdered their entire family. They were diagnosed schitzo-affective, or whatever they call it these days, and shortly after leaving the Lie the symptoms disappeared entirely.

  • 3rdgen

    To NC, I always enjoy your posts and as usual agree 100%. I'm looking forward to being able(like you) to ditch the anti-depressants. To Ndrew, My young adult son died a few years ago in an accident. My daughter is now an only child. She left the Org before I did and lives a long distance away. She was a mess while in but now is happy and succesful. :)

  • N.drew

    I'm sorry (((((((3rdgen))))))) But I'm happy about your daughter! And never forget we all are or were a mess sometime in our lives. I can't prove it, but i think it is true!

  • Found Sheep
    Found Sheep

    Well... the last sad story I heard was in my brothers hall. A MS with a wife and kids. They never did know what made him get that depressed. He wasn't being treated for depression. One thing my brother said that really made me mad!!! I said I feel so bad for HIM. Can you imagine how horrable he must have felt to do that? My brother said I don't think about HIM at all how selfish to leave his family that way...

    On the same topic a few years ago there was that awake on suicide and I made a coment that it said "seceed" suicide and it should always say "complete" suicide. He just said what are you questioning the GB?

    And I will add most of the time I was 1/2 suicidal - happy to say since I left my demond left too

  • Chemical Emotions
    Chemical Emotions

    Although I know more JWs than nonJWs, and although I have met a few nonJWs who have had depression or seemed depressed, I have known, or at least met MANY JWs who were depresses, uch more than nonJWs, it seems.

    A few weeks ago I heard a talk at my KH. It wasn't a great one, of course, but I noticed that the speaker emphasized that 1) a lot of JWs get depressed and 2) it doesn't mean that Jehovahs doesn't love you or that you're doing something wrong. Apparently many JWs tell depressed JWs that they don't have J's holy spirit. I think I recently read an article that breifly mentioned that too. They still tend to accuse the depressed, but they're being more subtle about it.

    I haven't heard a lot about JWs being such "happy people" recently!

    And I was depressed. Suicidal. I'll tell my whole story on here one day, but for now, suffice to say I'm much happier knowing that I'm not a bad person for thinking that hitting kids (even on "acceptable areas") is wrong, that nonJWs (and especially not their children) don't deserve to die horribly, etc. I don't live in fear of not being good enough for god. I don't worry that I'll get raped and will have "asked for it" just because I wore a low-cut top, or that I'll have committed fornication and no JW man will want me because I'm damaged goods. I now fully admit to myself that I believe in feminism without any guilt. I don't feel the need to have any respect for abusers, no matter what their age or reltaion to me, and I can stand up for myself better than I used to. I still get bouts of semi-depression for a few hours or days, occasionally, because I still haven't disassociated myself just yet. But I've finally gotten a taste of what life outside the WTS cult is like (mentally and partly physically), and I'm NEVER going back.

  • NewChapter

    To NC, I always enjoy your posts and as usual agree 100%. I'm looking forward to being able(like you) to ditch the anti-depressants.

    3rdgen, I hope it works out for you. Depression is complex, so use a great deal of care. Leaving doesn't always mean the depression leaves completely, but I believe it gets at least better for many. Please promise you will work closely with a doctor. That's what I did. We monitored my progress very closely. I just want you to have happiness and fullfillment now that you have taken the steps, and I don't want you to fall into depression.

  • NewChapter

    or that I'll have committed fornication and no JW man will want me because I'm damaged goods

    Chemical, I had to smile at this (ironically). A friend who was a single JW woman with a great job was very angry about a talk at her hall. The speaker had set up a scenario where a young sister left the "truth" and lived a worldly life. She got pregnant and had a child and came back. A bit later, a man who had been raised "in the world" and had all the sex he wanted, got baptized. The sister was interested in him, but he was not interested in HER because he wanted a virgin!

    On the plus side, my friend was so disgusted she was almost spitting. On the negative side, many young women internalized that bullshit message that day. Please pass the Prozac.


  • flipper

    OODAD- Hey OODAD , I'm back ! Got back online , after a day off ( thanks to wifey's checking account ! ) LOL ! My wife & I enjoyed talking with you this morning !

    I knew a young man in his mid 20's who was married with a young wife and children who committed suicide in the hometown I told you about I grew up in. He had depression and due to experimenting a little with drugs, got DFed. Not long thereafter he committed suicide. Awful , sad situation. I also knew plenty of people who suffered serious depression in several congregations I attended and they were treated like they had a disease . Pioneers would avoid working in field service with them and many times when hands were raised and asked if they needed a partner at meeting for service - depressed JW's hands would go up.

    I also studied with a man in his late 20's when I was in my mid 20's who was paranoid / schizophrenic. He had multiple personalities and would often go off of his medications for depression. Very sad. This guy would go out wandering in the streets and got hit by a vehicle as well as tackled by a cop in a bank once after he tapped the cops gunholder. Eventually he got baptized , but due to his anger management problems towards his JW mother he lived with - the elders found him a halfway house to live in . After I moved from the area I heard he had had a drug overdose and committed suicide. Extremely sad.

    Bottom line is this dangerous JW cult does NOTHING to offer serious emotional and physical support to depressed/suicidal people. They'd rather stick them in a corner out of the way and tell them to do more " personal study " to " snap out " of their depression. In my opinion because the WT society instructs elders to NOT recommend seeking psychiatric help professionally for depressed ones- it makes them culpable and liable for the outcome to depressed people. ! It's a sin of omission in not helping these people. Peace out, Mr. Flipper

  • 3rdgen

    Dear ChemicalEmotions (Boy your name is right on topic) Good for you!

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