Managing Depression and Anxiety / Homesickness

Depression and anxiety are a significant issue among missionaries serving on their missions. Homesickness is a form of anxiety, often called separation anxiety. If a missionary comes home, it is often for one of these reasons. There are some things that can be done to help and work through these issues.

Read the chapter from Missionary Medicine: A Guide for LDS Missionary Health on these subjects:

Anxiety/Homesickness       Depression

Communication is very, very important.  The mission president needs to be aware of the issue early on.  In addition, the missionary should have people to talk with and to email with.  Families need to be able to communicate with the missionary and the missionary needs someone in the field to talk with.  This can be a companion, a missionary friend, a counselor, or a friend from home.  The Church has done several things to help. The first is they are allowing missionaries to email friends at home and in other missions.  This will allow the missionary to communicate and see how their friends are coping.  It also makes a mission more familiar in that they can keep the communication lines open with their support system.

It is recommended that missionaries take out a "911 package." In the package they should include pictures, music, and other items from home that will help them when they are stressed out.  Any item that would have some special meaning that the missionary can turn to give them strength.  

Prior to leaving, missionaries should be taught about the symptoms of homesickness and anxiety and should be prepared to address them ahead of time.  Families should be prepared to know that the missionary may well have symptoms and be prepared.  They should read about anxiety and stress and educate themselves ahead of time.  The two chapters in Missionary Medicine were written for this purpose. You can read them by clicking on Depression or Anxiety. These chapters should be read by parents and missionaries.

If they are in areas where it is dark much of the year, they can use light boxes where the missionary will be exposed to bright lights.  This helps to produce vitamin D in their system. These have been successful.  Vitamin D supplements can be useful for anyone having symptoms.

Exercise is important as well, if a missionary is not working out this can be helpful.

Diet is important as well, but a lot of missionaries who are stressed just don’t eat well at all. 

In the end, it might be useful for the missionary to be transferred to a mission closer to home, where the sights, sounds, meals, and language are more familiar.  Families can send packages easier and communication is better.  This is to be determined by the families, the missionary and the mission president.