I recently wrote a response to the central message of Ian Williams' NYT op-ed--that Mormons are hopelessly out of touch with the real, messy world.
But in my response, I didn't respond to one line that bothered me for reasons that go beyond Mormonism.
While ragging on his perspective of restrictive Mormon morality, Williams said "the L.D.S. worldview would positively smother most Americans. It might be smothering most Mormons; Utah's antidepressant use makes it one of the most-medicated states in the country."
Now, this is pretty shaky evidence for condemning a culture. While it's possible that aspects of Mormonism are causing or compounding depression, there are plenty of alternate explanations for why Utah (which is not actually all Mormon, but let's ignore that for a moment) might have a high medication rate. One possibility is that Utah actually does have high depression rates--but because of another factor such as weather or high levels of some recessive Scandinavian depression-related gene. But since medication rates are not the same as depression rates, it's also possible that Utahns are not actually more depressed than any one else, only better medicated. It's possible, for example, that because of Mormon influence, Utahns are more likely to go to doctors for medication than to self-medicate through substance abuse. Or else that Mormons are more likely to find voices that decrease the stigma of mental health treatment, either in official church publications or just through brothers and sisters who are informed about or experienced in dealing with medical depression.
Which brings me to my big problem with Williams' critique: using Utah anti-depression medication rates as evidence of Mormon sinisterness doesn't just stigmatize Mormons. It also further stigmatizes medication for people struggling with depression.
And since there are a lot of people in this country who don't get their very real depression treated because they don't want to show "weakness" or disappoint others' expectations, more stigmatization is about the last thing we need.
I've known and loved many people, Mormons and others, who have been quite happy with their lives and struggled with depression at the same time. Personally, I consider it a great blessing whenever someone dealing with any mental illness can find a medication that works reasonably well for them.
So, Mr. Williams, if you're reading this--next time, could you look up Utah's chocolate consumption rate and use it as evidence that we need some vice instead? ;)