Relative rates of mental illness

by Doug Mason 12 Replies latest watchtower medical

  • Doug Mason
    Doug Mason

    A report produced 50 years ago by a psychiatrist at a West Australian mental health facility ("asylum"l reported that the mental illness rate among JWs was 3 times the norm of Society. Other similar studies at the time concluded the rate was much higher.

    I wrote to the psychiatrist at the time, asking whether the WTS attracted people who were already susceptible to mental illness or if the situation was created after the person became a JW. He responded that they did not know.

    Being myopically focused on the WTS at the time, but more importantly belonging to an alternative eschatological apocalyptic body at the time, I did not think more broadly.

    I think that today I would like to know:

    1. How does the mental illness rate among JWs compare with the rate among other eschatological apocalyptic groups?

    2. Similarly, what are the comparable mental illness rates among other groups, e.g. Fundamentalists (Christian, Muslim, etc.); Pentecostals.

    3. How do these compare with the mental rate among secular groupings?

    I cannot say, but my gut feel is that the answer to my original question is:

    1. Insecure people, (is "unbalanced" a valid expression?) are attracted to the atmosphere of the positive solution being offered. And the solution is imminent.

    2. Once "inside" their inner doubts are added to because these do not align with the positive behaviour that is apparent in others.

    3. The threatening messages of imminent doom, of a powerful demanding God only adds to their previous insecurity.

    Does my hypothesis align with the large dropouts, especially from "born-in" children?


  • scratchme1010

    Interesting topic. In terms of numbers, I may be as clueless as you are, and if I'd speculated about it, I think that I'd share the same thoughts that you stated.

    I do know that the issue of mental health was my eye opener. I was depressed as a JW trying to comply with their Jehovah crap until I finally had it and got help. After that I started wondering and noticing how many others might be suffering in silence expecting for "magic Jehovah" to solve all their problems, or just waiting for their new order to make things better for them.

    When I started noticing, and I mean, really noticing the JWs in that congregation in Rio Piedras, it was horrible, creepy, sad and angering (at that organization) noticing so many people with all kinds of issues, many of which can be treated with simple talk therapy.

    I left decades ago and since then I don't follow anything they say, do or change, but back then there were elders who openly talked against getting any kind of mental health, claiming that doing service will make you better, or otherwise, it "has to be your conscience bothering you", so then you need to confess to something. It was sickening (literally).

  • john.prestor

    I personally believe that the movement's culture is distinctively narcissistic: Jehovah's Witnesses are abusive (disfellowshipping, threats of a fiery death at Armageddon), black-and-white us vs them thinking, viciously dismissive of other faiths, believe themselves to be special and elect, lots of ego-stroking about how great "divine education" is, etc.

    This means that the movement could very well attract other narcissists, those who enjoy such an environment and thrive within it, as well as the victims of narcissists (those with borderline disorder, for instance). This could explain why there would be a higher rate of mental illness, if indeed there is.

  • days of future passed
    days of future passed

    These are just a few of the people I knew joined the Witnesses.

    One was in high school when the cuban missile crisis was going on. She was terrified. The idea that God would prevent that from ultimately happening/or resurrection if it did, was what she needed. She is very childlike to this day and totally dependent on JW land.

    My mother. Didn't want to grow old, remains childish and petty to this day. Depends on the WT to tell her what to do.

    The real mentally ill/hampered:

    A man who's father was mean, strict and crazy. He definitely has some problems and takes meds. Nice but ...

    A born in who had an JW alcoholic father and a witch of a JW mother(who also had mental problems), has a personality disorder. She wouldn't leave because she believes she is anointed.

    Old sister that I saw at a restaurant. She had a stack of napkins 6 inches high. Eat a bite of food, wipe mouth, throw napkin away. She also complained about others jewelry. The elders try to placate her so why would she leave?

    And I believe that the WT's own twisted logic, encourages others to try it out also. An elder who instead of helping his wife with postpartum depression, convinced the elders to swoop in and take her child from her. Divorced her after he got her to sign away the properties that they both had bought. Dated while still divorced, got demoted when it was found out. Hid his money from the exwife. Hired illegals and transacted real estate by "giving" it to his father so that it would be hard to track it to him. (or something like that) When his sorry ass was finally hauled into court again to up his child support, one of the excuses he couldn't afford to pay more, was because he had bought his new wife a corvette and had to make payments.... I'm not even sure a classification of a sociopath would be correct since he doesn't feel remorse for any of it.

    I also think the way the WT has articles on how the nice witnesses are always supposed to forgive the stubborn, mean, rude, witchy and gossipy people in the hall, teaches them to be a "doormat" and that causes mental distress too.

  • LongHairGal


    I don’t know about statistics but I felt the Jehovah’s Witness religion is very abusive and contributes to neurosis and phobias.


    You are totally right about how the religion teaches people to be a doormat (mostly women, I believe). They also expected you to be forgiving to crazy or offensive people - who were inflicted on you in f.s., car groups. This is mental-illness inducing, in my opinion.

    You also have some JWs who exploit this and deliberately go out of their way to be a trial to other people.

    I did not fit in because I had no intention of being anybody’s doormat. I felt this was the behavior expected there. But, they didn’t get this from me.

    Leaving the religion was a relief.

  • slimboyfat

    Spencer’s study was methodologically problematic, it was biased, and it was rejected by other academics, including James Beckford and James Penton. There are no good data available on the questions you raise, as far as I am aware, which is unfortunate.

  • cha ching
    cha ching

    I definitely think that JW teachings can cause mental stress. Forgive & forget, do not bring "reproach" on J's name , do what you are told even if it does not make sense from a human standpoint, if you do not have two Witnesses, forget about it. Shun your family when they do not believe the same as you do, don't take an organ transplant it's cannibalism... Oops no it's not cannibalism anymore sorry your family member died. No blood fractions okay blood fractions are okay. And on and on and on

  • Brokeback Watchtower
    Brokeback Watchtower

    Bad coping skills for sure. Belief in a cure all for every form of human suffering that's never gonna happen based on wishful and magical thinking and a host of cherry picked factoids causes one to operate with a not full deck.

    You know subjecting a bunch of people to corporation slavery though the use of guilt and fear propaganda got weaken the human psyche to make it more prone toward mental illness or improper functioning. Bull shit in means bull shit out. Feeding one's mind on WT propaganda can actually make one shadow a living nightmare, cause one to really lose tract of himself and only identify with his persona, and dump a ton load of shit into his shadow causing more and more mental problems as one gets older in years.

    These people are feeding on what ever utter bull shit the Governing Body and their helpers can dream up. That pure unadulterated bull shit in and so when it's decision time and what these people do will all be governed by the bull shit they took in and expecting Jehooper's help and not get any, they will suffer lots of disappointments which they will be in denial of while repeating corporate slogan's about loyalty and obedience to a murdering Jehovah and his earthly organization.

  • Lost in the fog
    Lost in the fog

    I know that approximately two thirds of the congregation I used to attend were getting antidepressants or actively seeing a mental health professional, including a few of the elders.

    I myself suffered from a period of severe clinical depression and it was the way I was ignored and treated by my "loving caring brothers" which started my journey out as my health improved.

  • humbled

    The amount of auto immune diseases, depression , wives of elders who suffered illnesses that often prevented their attendance at meetings ( these were,oddly, the kinder sisters)

    I have points of comparison with the outside worldly people having years of contact before during and after the cult.

    l have spent a lot of time with a wide range of worldly people including folks who’ve been to prIson. The people outside have this going for them: they have problems but don’t have the burden of the teachings and the JW culture. The protections to children may be said to protect kids growing up but also screw them up So that’s a draw.

    But for saner thinkers,hands down, l find nonJWs better able to deal with life, generally more open and kind to themselves and others while accepting that they are screwed up or struggling with life. They aren’t constantly on tap to “🎼serve the God of true prophecy” by regurgitating claims made by strangers in a galaxy far away.

    of course they have grave mental health problem... and so did I.

    I tried to get counseling while “in” but had trouble talking about issues without incriminating my belief system . So l didn’t really get any help at that time.

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