Mental Illness among JW's

by Victor 28 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • Victor

    Disclaimer: This article has some broad generalizations that will have exceptions to what is stated. This is the only way I can even attempt to address the topic. I've looked for scholarly articles published on peer reviewed journals for years. I don't know of any. Years ago, a JW and an apologist for the WTS named Carr wrote a slanted article on mental health in favor of JW's.

    Since JW's are a closed group, there is no way of accurately knowing the degree of mental illness among its members. However, we can look at the symptoms among its members to come up with some educated guesses. I will draw on my experience and admit in advance this is a subjective viewpoint from an experiencer.

    In my last congregation I attended, I witnesses forms of depression from families living in poverty with no prospects of a better future. Continuing education or specialized training for a technical job was forbidden if it interfered with making meetings or field service. This double bind (damn if you do damn if you don't) filled the lives of many members. When husbands (many elders) were emotionally or mentally abusive with their family members, there was no relief. Wives were advised to be submissive pray and leave it in God's hands.

    Since JW's are such a sexually repressive group, issues of infidelity and prohibited sexual acts were rampant. When elders or ministerial servants were the predators, the victims were told to leave it in God's hands.

    Some portion of the demographic were members with existing mental illness pre-conversion. These people clung to the faith as an antidote for their illness fantasizing an idyllic future in the paradise. In my opinion these people's illness was exacerbated from the binds the religion created for them. In our congregation, I head of one lady who was disfellowshipped for sex out of marriage and in her meeting with the elders, she broke down and went into a fetal position crying uncontrollably. She was having an emotional psychotic breakdown.

    One lady I knew in another congregation suffered from bipolar depression. In one of her manic episodes, she sold her house and went to serve where the need was greater. This could have been avoided if she had been encouraged to seek medical and psychological help. When she cycled back to normal, she was broke with no one to turn to for help.

    In my experience, a very large percentage of personal problems among JW members had a psychological explanation that psychotherapy could have solved. This option was strictly forbidden and anyone who turned to professional help was viewed with suspicion.

    Do JW's cause mental illness? Yes, from the hypnotic alternate reality they construct with hypnotic language. When reality clashes with this unrealistic magical thinking mindset, the witness is told he has double down on having more faith and being submissive to the elders.


  • Fadeaway1962


    Since I started my fade I meet with two elders regarding a family issue they did not understand and refused to look on the internet on approved sites to be able to understand the issue,

    Often thought how many witnesses who believed and had mental health issues were disfellowshiped for a weakness because elders did not understand or would not try to understand and so contributed to the illness.

  • Atlantis

    Mental Illness and Jehovah's Witnesses

    John Stedman

    Jerry Bergman (From Ken Raines old site)


  • Still Totally ADD
    Still Totally ADD

    VE well written. I was one of those victims wanting to get some higher education for a skilled job but did not do it because I would miss meetings. What a chump I was. Also the mental illness you mention I say the same thing in the congregations I served. Take care. Still Totally ADD

  • Victor

    @ Atlantis thanks I will read these very carefully. If memory serves me Jerry Bergman is an ex circuit overseer who was affiliated with why-1914.

    @ fadeaway in my last meeting of elders and ministerial servants we were strictly prohibited from doing any online research, reading self help books, or talking to mental health professionals.

    @stilladd so sorry to hear of your condition, it's never too late to get professional help

  • Magnum

    In the congregations I have been, it seems there was a disproportionately large number with mental illness. In fact, in the last congregation I was in, an elder joked to me "half the congregation is on dope" (jokingly referring to meds prescribed for mental illness as "dope").

    There was a lot of depression, a couple of bipolar, two suicides (that I can remember - maybe more), one older female caught stealing drugs (for personal use) from a physician's office where she worked, several miserable children running away or leaving home as soon as possible, several with alcohol problems, etc.

    I think JWism contributes to such and might tend to attract those who already have such tendencies.

  • Still Totally ADD
    Still Totally ADD

    VE don't worry that was almost 35 years ago. I survived and now retired. Still with the same women I married almost 46 years ago. Been out of the borg for 10 years. Life is so much better. Still Totally ADD

  • road to nowhere
    road to nowhere

    I can agree with the elders not doing research on their own. No way to judge how good the solutions are. Avoiding professional help is more troubling.

    Remember: " mental problems are a manifestation of demonic influence"

  • truth_b_known

    Back in the 70s & 80s my father was a big mover and shaker withing the realm of the Watchtower. He had been recruited by the Watchtower to make a documentary on District Conventions back in the 80s. A previous project he started on his own was looking into mental illness among Jehovah's Witnesses.

    My fathers findings were that there was a higher percentage of mentally ill among JWs than other Christian sects and that JWs seemed to attract the mentally ill into their ranks. He was told to bury his research.

    I personally saw many mentally ill recruiting into the Witnesses. In fact, most coming in who are not born-ins tended to live in poverty, be mentally ill, or both. What was sad was how many of these who suffer from mental illness were told to stop taking their meds and seeing doctors. They were told that there mental illness was actually demons and that they needed to rely on Jehovah, not medicine, for help.

  • LongHairGal


    I tend to agree with you that the JW religion can cause mental illness because of its promoting an alternate mental reality. What happens when reality comes crashing it most certainly will?

    My experience with the JW religion gave me OCD. I have shaken most of it off..but every now and then it pops up.. I’m not even a born-in!

    I also think the religion might attract some people who have serious issues. They are comforted by the teaching of a ‘new system’ where there will be peace and no evildoers, etc.

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