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Art Therapy in Utah: A Collage of Mental Health Resources

The fundamentals of art therapy are much the same as other types of expressive therapies—an artistic medium is used to facilitate the expression of a psychological reality. This may be externalizing negative emotions and past events, or it may be depicting beauty, resilience, or other values that tend to serve as a buffer against psychological stress.

Now, this doesn’t mean that every pretty picture is a perfect reflection of some deep personal truth. Explaining a picture of a rose may be explained as easily as the fact that, in Utah, they grow like crazy, and people tend to draw what they see. Plus, not everything has to have a deeper meaning to be a positive. The simple act of making a meaningful picture has tremendous potential to lift and/or stabilize one’s mood. That said, for those who are struggling with psychological stress, troubling realities have a tendency to bubble up to the surface. For all these reasons, the art therapist, the prompt, and the person’s willingness to respond to that prompt earnestly can all be crucial elements for getting desirable results.


Art Therapy Settings in Utah

One of the surest ways to parse out the different types of art therapy in Utah is to look at the settings in which the art is created. As well as some of specific therapeutic goals that are trying to be achieved—

  • Most of us were asked as school kids to draw a picture of our family. This school activity can be both therapy and an informal assessment tool. Childhood trauma comes in many different forms, but even generally supportive families may be made stronger by exploring the content of these depictions.
  • Group therapy is the most common mode for art therapy. Creating art with others helps provide affordable access to direct feedback from an art therapist. This includes residential treatment centers as well as intensive outpatient treatment programs, especially drug rehab. But it also includes mental health therapists in Utah who offer weekly or monthly art-inspired group therapy. Some of these classes are designed for specific types of mental health troubles. Others are geared more toward particular mediums and themes.
  • Art therapy can also be a homework assignment from a mental health professional in the context of individual therapy. Direct feedback doesn’t have to be immediate feedback. By responding to an artistic prompt and then bringing the artwork to your next appointment, you get that much more from your mental health therapy.


Art as an Evidence-Based Therapy

As it’s depicted today, neuroscience is as media narrative as methodology. Still, the study of the brain provides plenty of corroborating evidence for the therapeutic value of artistic expression. Art may be subjective, but expressive therapies stand up well to scientific scrutiny. Especially when it comes to specific mental health troubles.

Take post-traumatic stress, for example. The toll of past traumas can disrupt our neurological function to the point where the language center of our brain shuts down when remembering traumatic events or when triggered by specific sensory inputs. Much of the power that trauma holds over us is its namelessness. Moreover, left unchecked, post-traumatic stress robs us of our everyday joys. A rose, by any other name, is just as sweet. But if we can’t give it a name at all, we truly do miss out on much of the flower’s sweetness.

More than just PTSD, anyone who has repeatedly struggled to communicate their psychological stress is likely to benefit from art therapy in one form or another. We encourage you to explore which resource in Utah makes the most sense for you.

How Does Equine Therapy Work?

There is no single answer to this question because there is no single kind of equine therapy. Equine, or horse, therapy is used to treat numerous physical and mental health issues. In nearly every case, a therapeutic bond forms between the horse and person, but what that bond entails really depends on the situation. Feeding, grooming, and any specialized care the horse may need is one common method for this therapy. So, too, is learning how to give various commands and putting the horse through his or her daily exercise. Finally, even when the horse can’t be ridden, the practice of saddling the horse may still be part of the program.


Why Horses?

Well, it doesn’t have to be horses. From dogs to dolphins to sheep, there are a number of different animal-assisted therapies. Fortunately, there’s really no need to throw a horse and, say, an alpaca into a double-blind study. Considerable effort is made to match different types of animals—as well as the specific horse—to the individual who is seeking therapy.

That said, there are specific advantages to using horses. First, horses are among the smartest animals out there. Their memory, in particular, make them imminently trainable, including the ability to obey complex commands. Their natural beauty, mannerisms, and unique care needs make the everyday experience incredibly rewarding.

Moreover, many of the horses need you just as much as you need them. There are more than 9 million horses in the U.S. for racing, showing, ranch and farm work, personal recreation, and a number of other activities. Inevitably, some of these horses are injured or fall ill and can no longer perform their previous work duties. Thus, many equine therapy centers, and the people who provide the horses’ care, are directly responsible for saving the lives of horses that might otherwise be euthanized.


What Type of Horse is Best for Equine Therapy?

From the Norwegian Fjord riding horse to miniature horses that people sometimes keep as pets, some breeds do tend to be better than others for therapy. That said, the most important factors tend to be size, temperament, and ride-ability. Even the horse’s personal history is taken into account, especially if there’s some type of common past between the horse and person. But just as often, a bond is forged by finding the differences that empower the horse and person to work together.

  • An injured horse that can’t be ridden at all and requires special care may be paired with someone who is struggling to recover from drug addiction, childhood abuse, or other mental health troubles where providing a nurturing environment to others can be invaluable in building resilience.
  • In contrast, someone with a physical disability may benefit from riding a horse with a stocky build, peaceful temperament, and clean gait. Feeding, grooming, and other aspects of the horse’s care may or may not be part of the therapy.
  • Other types of equine therapy are based almost solely on companionship and lifting people’s moods. And, on this point, a small pony galloping around the room and running up to people asking to be pet tends to be pretty effective.


Starting Equine Therapy in Utah

Some people go directly to one of Utah’s equine centers, but people with a serious mental illness frequently talk to a therapist or psychologist about their troubles and which types of therapy might work best in your case. That said, don’t hesitate to tell the mental health professional about your interest in horses, as these personal preferences may be a factor in making a referral. Likewise, know that equine therapy may be an adjunct therapy that is done in coordination with a larger treatment plan.


Popular Types of Yoga for Mental Health

It’s nice to have at least a basic understanding of the types of yoga that you might come across. The right yoga experience can deliver invaluable mental health benefits for a range of disorders, while a person who’s unprepared for an advanced-level hot yoga class may actually hinder their efforts toward better physical and mental health. In addition to classes in various yoga disciplines, most studios in Utah advertise beginner, intermediate, and advanced level classes.

Again, be sure you know what you’re signing up for. Any instructor worth their salt is going to clearly communicate the general skill level of the class, as well as ways to modify individual poses for those who are being pushed outside their comfort zone. Still, it can be frustrating to show up and then have to pass on a yoga class because it wasn’t what you were expecting. Likewise, for those who already strength, flexibility, and/or some yoga experience, a more challenging class may be necessary to see a positive change to their mental health and overall fitness level.


Popular Types of Yoga

Know that not every yoga class can be pigeon-holed into a single discipline. Customized, hybrid classes have become increasingly common in recent years. But by learning which types of yoga are most appealing to you in general, there’s a better chance that you can make a substantial, or even dramatic change, to your mental health. You can find a more comprehensive list here, but the following categories capture most of the classes you’ll find at the yoga studios in Utah.

  • Hatha Yoga
  • Ashtanga/Power Yoga
  • Bikram/Hot Yoga
  • Restorative Yoga
  • Integral Yoga
  • Iyengar Yoga
  • Yin Yoga


Types of Yoga for Mental Health

There are specific yoga disciplines, but there are also various types of yoga experience that will speak to different people and different mental health goals.

Personalized Classes and Instructors: This is one of the most popular and straightforward ways to find a yoga class. First, identify those things that are most important to you. Finding the right skill level applies to just about everybody. Otherwise, it’s a hodge-podge of personal priorities. For some people, finding affordable classes is most important. Part of this priority, too, can be looking for a local option that doesn’t take any additional travel time or gas money. A lot of people are looking for an individual instructor they can connect with. For others, choosing a larger studio with several instructors and classes provides the flexibility to maintain regular attendance even with a floating work schedule.

Social/Recreational Yoga: Whether you’re looking to meet new people or find a class with almost zero pressure to perform, a social yoga experience can be just the thing to introduce you to the value of yoga therapy. One great example is Glow Yoga offered by City Centered Yoga at the intersection of 9th and 9th between Sugarhouse and downtown Salt Lake.

Now, a class that offers a more continuous focus and flow on yogic transitions make show more long-term benefit in terms of physical fitness. On the other hand, this is two hours of fun-filled yoga and can be a great way to improve your mental health or simply kick off a relaxing, rejuvenating weekend.

Private Yoga: Private yoga includes both individual and small group instruction. Whether it’s physical limitations or specific mental health goals, individual sessions can help you overcome barriers and maximize yoga’s mental health benefits. Many businesses and organizations also look to private yoga as a way to improve the culture and team morale, both inside and outside the workplace. The obvious downside for individuals is the cost of one-on-one yoga instruction. On the other hand, one-on-one sessions that empower the individual to partake in regular yoga classes may be well worth the price tag.

DIY Yoga: Likewise, many people can benefit from collaborating with a private yoga instructor on building a personalized yoga program that you can do on your own. Many types of yoga, including Yin and Iyengur Yoga, recommend poses that are held longer and sessions that can last longer than normal. Alternately, many people can only find limited time windows in their schedule that are best filled with short DIY yoga programming.

Becoming a Yogi: Yoga is not a religion, but there are plenty of devoted enthusiasts, most commonly known as yogis. At times, it can feel very cliquey, but we can assure you there are no secret handshakes or initiation rituals required to be in the club. Put another way, there are plenty of advanced skills, hybrid styles, and personal goals that can help people take that next step toward greater resilience and mental health. Don’t let an uneasiness about the idea of joining yogi culture hold back your individual passion for, and exploration of, yoga.


What Causes a Panic Attack?

We’re not really sure what causes a panic attack, but we do know several things about the physical processes, personal histories, and even lifestyle factors that contribute to an elevated risk of experiencing an attack. Even our definition of what a panic attack is has evolved over time. Our latest understanding from leading mental health researchers is “an abrupt surge of intense fear or intense discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes” and in which at least four of these symptoms are present.

With the goal of helping people more quickly recognize and take action to reduce their panic levels, here’s a shorthand guide to understanding what we do and do not know about what causes a panic attack.


What’s Going on in the Brain?

It will come as little surprise to those who know the amygdala as the fear center of the brain that, in the midst of an attack, this area of the brain lights up like Temple Square at Christmas. But what’s also interesting about the physiology of a panic attack is the involvement of a brain structure known as the periaqueductal gray, or PAG. Like the amygdala, the PAG does a lot of things. First and foremost, it plays a central role in taking defensive action against a threat detected by the amygdala. It’s also crucial for pain modulation. Specifically, when you’re able to lessen the pain from a needle or broken bone by distracting yourself by paying attention to something else, it’s your PAG that allows this to happen.

Also of interest, the PAG is activated during sex and by one’s maternal instincts. Fulfilling, intimate relations is, indeed, known to reduce levels of anxiety and panic. In contrast, the connection to one’s maternal instinct is an instructive example of why it can be so difficult to turn neurological research into effective treatment. Pregnancy helps some women substantially reduce their panic, while making the problem even worse for other women.


Long-, Medium-, and Short-Term Risk Factors

Even without a comprehensive understanding of the causes, recognizing the personal risk factors that may be contributing to your panic attacks is often crucial for identifying the most effective treatment(s).


Childhood Abuse, Socialization, and Genetics: These are some of the big culprits for long-standing risk factors that can turn into panic disorder much later in life. For some people, panic attacks are the unpredictable expressions of long-buried abuse or trauma. Gender differences in the frequency and types of childhood abuse may partially explain why about twice as many women as men suffer from the disorder. That said, like so many mental health problems, it’s impossible to account for panic through culture and environment alone. Panic is also known to run in families, and even those who have a nurturing and supportive childhood experience, may struggle with panic disorder.


Trauma and Anxiety: Childhood abuse is not the only kind of trauma that can lead to a panic attack. In fact, overwhelming panic is one of the potential symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Moreover, because the PTSD may not surface for many months or even years after the trauma, it’s often overlooked until serious consequences occur.

Traumatic brain injury is another under-appreciated risk factor. These injuries are frequently described solely by their immediate danger and physical symptoms. But all too often, a brain injury also strips us of our psychological buffers and hard-earned coping mechanisms. Thus, someone who is already vulnerable to anxiety and panic may begin to experience attacks in the aftermath of a blow to the head.

Moreover, when exposed, latent anxiety may turn into a full-blown panic attack. People with OCD who are unable to perform their behavioral compulsions, for example. Also, people who are recovering from eating disorders may experience panic as part of the behavioral change needed to obtain a healthy weight. Many types of anxiety disorder, in fact, involve an increased risk of panic disorder.


Lifestyle Factors: Sudden and unpredictable, a panic attack may occur from either an anxious state or a calm state. That said, one’s overall stress and anxiety levels are a short-term risk factor for having an attack. Generally speaking, there are no quick fixes, but removing any unnecessary stress from your life is often a positive step. Likewise, a twice weekly yoga habit and/or 20-minute daily meditation session may help keep panic at bay without totally upending your schedule.

We’d also be remiss if we gave the impression that every risk factor for a panic attack was a psychological one. Stimulants, for example, are one of the most underrated culprits. As scary as it sounds, weening yourself off of your morning coffee or energy drink can make a big difference in the long run.

There’s also a seasonal connection. Plenty of people already have a tendency to suffer from autumn anxiety. Plus, many cold and allergy medicines include powerful stimulants and other drugs that may increase one’s anxiety level and panic, a problem during the spring and fall. Sedating antihistamines may be one option, but even with these over-the-counter drugs, we recommend talking to a doctor or pharmacist about the potential for anxiety-increasing side effects. Know, too, that there may not be a perfect answer. After all, not being able to breathe because of clogged nasal passageways isn’t exactly a recipe for relaxation.


Get Help for a Panic Attack in Utah

If you’re in the midst of an attack, we also offer this guide on how to cope with the immediate symptoms. Otherwise, we strongly recommend you talk to a qualified mental health professional about what you’ve been going through and which treatment steps are most likely to reduce your panic. Know that most people learn to more effectively cope with their panic, both during and after therapy has been completed.

Mental Depression in Utah: The Culture of Industriousness

Too often, mental depression is misconstrued as some type of “personality flaw,” a laziness and moodiness that requires willpower to overcome. This attitude may be especially common and problematic in Utah where there is a culture of industriousness borne from the state’s pioneering history. This attitude is problematic because depression can befall individuals of virtually any personality type. In fact, some of the most industrious people are among those who are most at risk. People who are under near constant pressure from important decision-making tasks, as well as those who perform jobs with low career satisfaction, may be more likely to suffer from depression.


Agency and Motivation

Overcoming mental depression usually takes more than simply willing oneself to get off the couch or to “just get over it.” Yet, this doesn’t mean the individual suddenly lacks all agency and has become powerless to get better. Part of the answer may be to face the depression itself as the problem: A person who lacks the daily motivation to go to work, to go for a walk, to eat and exercise as they once did may nevertheless find motivation to take the necessary steps to alleviate the symptoms of a depressive episode. Put another way: An individual may be able to adopt an industrious attitude about doing the things that will stabilize their mood, even when they are no longer capable of being industrious toward everyday activities.


Sex Differences and Mental Depression in Utah

Utah’s attitudes about gender roles also likely plays a role in how an industrious culture can lead to mental depression, especially for women. A provocative new study suggests that management positions involving decisions about hiring, firing, and pay lead to higher rates of depression in women, but lower rates of depression in men. Moreover, the study found that women who demonstrated common leadership traits were often criticized for being unfeminine.

At the same time, other differences in the sexes may be harmful to men and the ways in which depression is viewed and understood. Some research has suggested that there is a neglected subtype of depression that is common to men and characterized by “aggression, substance abuse, and risk taking.” And while there is not yet a consensus that these male-dominated symptoms constitute gender parity for rates of depression, there is little doubt that, in general, women are more pathologized than men. Thus, women may face a greater a mental health stigma, while men may find it more difficult to access services for their mental health issues.


Perspective: Clinical Symptoms and Services for Mental Depression

As always, it’s important not to inflate the significance of correlating factors: Just because you have a high-stress job doesn’t mean every moment of despair will lead to a depressive episode. Just because you have a laid-back personality doesn’t mean you’re in the free-and-clear. You can learn more about the clinical symptoms of depression, but if it seems plausible that you or someone you know is going through a depressive episode, your best bet is to seek out clinical services from a mental health professional.

Either way, don’t let any mental health stigma stand in the way of getting help. The sooner an individual seeks out treatment for clinical depression the better the outcomes tend to be. Moreover, even those who don’t fit the clinical definition of depression may still be going through a major adjustment period that would go more smoothly with counseling services.


Understand and Get Help for Bipolar Symptoms

Bipolar symptoms include signs of both clinical depression and mania. These features present as distinct episodes, although there is a form of the disorder in which an individual may experience some of each symptoms at the same time. A lot of people call bipolar disorder manic depression, and while these are the two poles of this mood disorder, it’s not simply a manic form of depression. In fact, there is a subtype of depression—mood-incongruent depression—in which an individual may express their depressed symptoms in a jarringly happy mood. What’s more, high-energy mania may sometimes have a negative emotional presentation, known as dysphoric mania.

The presentation of bipolar symptoms is potentially influenced by a number of factors specific to Utah, but it’s also important for local residents to understand the clinical symptoms of this disorder and to seek out qualified mental health services when behavioral issues do arise.


Bipolar Symptoms for Depression

To qualify as a depressive episode of clinical significance, the individual must experience either a pronounced lack of interest and pleasure in favored activities or sustained feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and/or sadness. In addition to this generally depressed mood, however, the individual must also experience at least four additional symptoms for a period of at least two weeks: change in appetite, sleep disturbances, sluggish behavior or speech, fatigue, intense feelings of guilt or worthlessness, trouble concentrating or making decisions, and suicidal ideation. You can read more about the clinical symptoms of depression here.


Bipolar Symptoms for Mania

Diagnostically similar, mania is first defined by an elevated mood and high-energy mental state. This mood must be sustained on a daily basis for at least several days, often a few weeks, and sometimes several months at a time. In addition to a generally expansive mood, the individual must this time experience at least three additional symptoms. Or, if the mania is defined by irritability instead of exhilaration, at least four of these additional symptoms must be present:

  • Grandiose attitudes or an inflated sense of self importance
  • Reduced sleep requirements
  • Excessive talkativeness, emotional need to keep talking
  • Racing thoughts to the point where it’s hard to say them quickly enough
  • Easily distracted by superfluous events or details
  • Increased activity level whether directed toward productive goals or purposeless behavior
  • Reckless behavior and decision-making


Manic vs. Hypomanic Episodes

The general symptoms of mania are the same in both types of episodes, but it’s the duration and, more importantly, the severity of the symptoms that distinguish between a manic and hypomanic episode. This difference also reveals whether the individual has bipolar type-1 or bipolar type-2. Here are some of the most common ways to tell the difference:

  • An individual who becomes delusional or has a “break from reality” is going through a manic episode.
  • If the manic episode lasts less than a week, it’s probably hypomania.
  • If the elevated mood causes an uncharacteristic change in behavior—but does not completely impair day-to-day functioning—it’s probably hypomania.


See a Utah Mental Health Professional

Looking through the clinical list of bipolar symptoms can be useful for understanding the difference between general moodiness and a serious mood disorder, but it’s not a license to make a psychological evaluation. Qualified clinicians go through many years of training and practice to consistently recognize the various presentations of bipolar, mood, and other mental disorders.

Major Depression Disorder & Utah Occupations

It’s no surprise that major depression disorder is impacted by the type of job someone has. Stressful situations, unhealthy habits, and socio-economic status are all places where occupation and depression intersect. What’s more, many Utah-based occupations present more challenging environments than the average job. By taking a look at these points of intersection, we hope to help more Utah residents recognize and get help for their depressive symptoms.


Statewide Economic Factors

Before we get started, however, it’s worth noting that unemployment is among the highest risk factors for depression—especially long-term unemployment. Utah’s generally strong economy can create blinders for the areas in which residents do struggle financially and occupationally. Moreover, beyond long-term unemployment, it’s getting harder and harder to find summer jobs. These disappearing jobs disproportionately affect young people, who are just entering the risk window for adolescent depression.


Utah Occupations with High Rates of Major Depression Disorder

In cross-referencing KSL’s top 10 popular Utah professions and Health.com’s 10 professions with the highest rates of depression, there is a lot of overlap:

  • Salespeople: It really depends on the type of sales job, but a lot of it can be thought of as Willy Loman syndrome: Travel, income uncertainty, and rejection may work together to create a toxic mix of physical and mental stressors.
  • Nursing: This is the quintessential “thankless” job. Performing personal care services and administrative duties in a setting surrounded by people who are sick has a tendency to take its toll.
  • Food Service: A combination of physical demands, low pay, and social stress make many servers and restaurant workers prone to depressive symptoms.
  • School Teacher: Teaching is a career with incredible rewards but a high burnout factor. It’s telling that a loss of interest and fulfillment in formerly pleasurable activities is one of the primary characteristics of major depression disorder.
  • Cleaning & Maintenance Workers: These types of jobs can present a high-risk for depression especially when the pay is low, the work is done alone, and late-night or on-call shifts are involved.
  • Truck Drivers: Okay, this one isn’t on the Health.com list, but it is an occupation in Utah that’s commonly linked to depression. This study found a much higher prevalence for truck drivers and depression (13.6 percent) than the general population.


The Chicken and the Egg

We must careful about how we think about Utah occupations and major depression disorder. While it’s certainly possible—even likely—that occupational settings are a big contributor to depressive symptoms, it could also be the case that people who already prone to depression tend to gravitate toward certain careers.

What You Need to Know about Manic Depression in Utah

Also called bipolar disorder, manic depression is a mood disorder in which an individual swings uncontrollably from periods of depressed mood to periods of elevated mood. Rather than general moodiness, however, these periods are exaggerated and typically last anywhere from a few days to several months. Still, there are a number of the mental disorders and medical conditions and controlled substances that can mimic these conditions.

Thus, the first thing a lot of Utahans want to know about manic depression is: Do they or someone they know have it? You can learn more about bipolar subtypes and symptoms here, but there are also a number of local Utah factors that may come into play.


Social Pressures vs. Social Resources

Family and other social groups may react in all sorts of ways to an individual who is not acting like themselves due to manic depression. Likewise, an individual may be reluctant to recognize that they are not acting like themselves potentially because of a mental illness. Any number of circumstances may create a stigmatizing environment that makes it more difficult to access treatment.

The initial onset of any mental disorder is often a disruption to daily life, but in the end, these social connections often serve more as a resource than a hindrance. Specifically by helping to monitor a change in behavior and by participating in mental health therapy recommendations, family members and close friends can be a life-saver.


The Indoor-Outdoor Dilemma for Manic Depression

It’s no wonder that many long- and short-term residents of Utah have a strong affinity for the outdoors and mountains. Yet, suicide rates are positively correlated with living at higher altitudes. And there is a growing community of scientists who believe that hypoxia is the prime culprit. Moreover, the effects of lower oxygen on serotonin and dopamine may be of special concern to someone with bipolar disorder in Utah.

The trouble is that it’s tough to say what the most appropriate response is: Staying in the Salt Lake Valley or other low-lying areas with cold-weather air pollution isn’t exactly a mood-stabilizer for most people. Neither is staying cooped up all day in the house. On the other hand, this information might give pause to someone with a mood disorder who is planning on spending an extended amount of time at higher elevations.


Treatment Tendencies

In Utah, there seems to be a higher use of antidepressants, despite average rates of major depression overall. There are a number of reasons why this might be the case, including the possibility that individuals are more likely to seek help from a physician than a mental health professional. The thing is certain types of antidepressant use can be downright dangerous for individuals with manic depression. Physicians typically screen patients for bipolar disorder before prescribing medications, but with an unpredictable course of this disorder, it may take some time to distinguish bipolar from major depression.


Be Honest with Your Utah Health Professional

This is commonsense advice of course, but the point here is that the stakes are sky-high. Failing to answer some questions truthfully may make it more difficult for a clinician to identify a manic episode or to distinguish bipolar symptoms from those of schizophrenia, borderline personality, ADHD, or other mental disorders.


Better Meditation Therapy for People in Utah

Meditation is the practice of reflection and present awareness. It is typically characterized by concentrating on a single stimulus—breathing, a candle flame, a soothing voice—as a way to quiet the mind and achieve a state of relaxed focus. The practice is correlated with a number of physical and mental health benefits including:

  • Improved, stabilized mood
  • Increased capacity for concentration
  • Lower levels of cortisol, stress, and anxiety
  • Slower respiratory rate
  • Better cardio-vascular health (blood pressure, heart rate, circulation)
  • Better neurological health


Who can Meditate?

The easiest way to introduce yourself to meditation is to give it a try. Though some take to it more naturally than others, anyone can meditate with practice. In fact, those who struggle at first may end up discovering the most satisfying results. Other people may not discover a lifelong love and yet be better for the experience anyway. If you’ve been struggling with a lot of anxiety or panic attacks, for example, here’s a personal account we recommend to better understand how the meditative experience may interact with your mental health.


Who has Time to Meditate?

It could be work, family, the church, or any number of hobbies, many people in Utah will recognize how little time they have. We’re not going to make blanket statements about how you should prioritize your life. Plus, there are a lot of ways to potentially strengthen your mental health. But for those who do find enjoyment in mediation, it’s a good idea to stay in the habit. Much like physical exercise, even a few minutes every day is better than nothing.

That said, we also suggest you take stock of how much you’re getting out of your time, especially in comparison to the past. When a crappy mood, lack of concentration, crushing self-doubt, manic episode, or overwhelming anxiety cause serious disruption to your life, it may be time to talk to a mental health professional about creating a more comprehensive plan to restore your mental health.


Religious and Spiritual Meditation

A lot of people in Utah have questions about the religious significance of meditation. While the practice is common in Buddhism, know that the vast majority of religions and religious communities believe the practice to be a positive spiritual influence. LDS members can find a discussion of meditation’s spiritual value from church leaders, as well as specific tips from Mormon Life Hacker. Here are a selection of Biblical scriptures that speak to meditation, as well as a general guide for using religious mantras.

Religion not your thing? There doesn’t need to be any religious significance at all for the practice to work. The solitude of the mountains beckons to people of all faiths. Even those people who are put off at first by the new-age, pop culture, overhyped branding of meditation practices are often surprised by the result of their meditation. In fact, a big reason for the hype is the growing research that supports earlier claims about the benefits of meditation and a new wave of secular-minded individuals who are giving it a try.


Advanced Techniques and Licensed Therapists

While you may prefer mantra-driven meditations, it’s worth pointing out that many meditation experts claim the most powerful meditative states are reached in silence. If you’re feeling apprehensive anyway, it’s usually not recommended your first time out. On the other hand, if you can’t find a quiet room in the house and you have a chance to go up into the mountains or find some other quiet spot, you may relish the idea. Trained mental health therapists can also integrate a number of different meditation techniques into a more structured and personalized therapy plan, especially for the treatment of a specific mental health problem.

Higher Rates of Major Depressive Disorder in Utah a Myth

A lot of people think that Utah is one of the most depressed states in the country, but in fact, it’s right at the national average. According to the Utah Department of Health, the prevalence rate for major depressive disorder is 4.2 percent in Utah and nationally. This means that, at any given time, about 4 percent of the state’s residents are depressed. (About one out of every ten Utah residents will go through a major depressive episode each year, and one out of every five residents will do so at some point in their lifetime.)


Popular Misconceptions about Major Depressive Disorder in Utah

Utah shows up near the top of a lot of lists for most depressed states. It’s an issue of data selection and methodology. Due to the inherent difficulties in researching the prevalence of major depressive disorder, there a lot of studies like this one that look at antidepressant use, mental health treatment, suicide rates, and other general information. The thing is these correlating factors serve as a poor substitute for rates of depression that are rigorously calculated through randomly selected populations and statistical analysis.

What’s more, there are many reasons why these correlating factors may be an especially poor method for Utah.


Antidepressant Use and Standards of Care: According to one Ogden psychiatrist quoted in the Salt Lake Tribune, northern Utah’s especially high rate of antidepressant use can be linked, in part, to Intermountain Healthcare’s effort to integrate mental health services with its primary care model. In other words, rising rates of antidepressant use reflect the fact that we’re doing a better job of providing help to the people who need it.

Religion and Self-Medication: There is a solid amount of evidence to suggest that religion and antidepressant use are correlated, but there is no shortage of plausible theories about why this is the case. The one that seems most convincing to us is that lower rates of alcohol use are also correlated with these groups. Thus, religious groups tend to use antidepressants more because they’re less likely to self-medicate. You can see a fuller treatment of this discussion here.

Mental Health Stigmas: Meanwhile, rates of talk therapy are often downplayed overall in calculating rates of major depressive disorder. As laudable as it is, Utah’s culture of self-reliance and industriousness doesn’t do us any favors when it’s time to ask for help from a qualified mental health therapist. Utah residents may be especially likely to seek help from a medical doctor instead.

Cost and Insurance Coverage: On a similar note, the health insurance statistics for Utah suggest that, in addition to a slightly higher rate of coverage overall, Utah has an especially high rate of coverage for employer-sponsored plans. These plans frequently include stronger benefits. Compare this with the coverage and out-of-pocket costs for seeing a therapist on a weekly basis.

Dual-Diagnosis and other Mental Illness: Utah also shows higher rates of diagnosis and mental health services for other types of mental illness. Not only are antidepressants sometimes prescribed for anxiety, OCD, pain, PTSD, and off-label uses, but the 2010 report on Antidepressant Use in Utah showed that the highest rates of antidepressant use were for people with two significant, chronic diseases.


Get Help for Major Depressive Disorder in Utah

State-wide statistics may seem especially important to someone struggling with their own course of major depressive disorder, but these prevalence rates, treatment patterns, and cultural influences can be instructive as individuals seek help for their depression and decide whether to see a therapist or a doctor. We also encourage you to look for local resources in your neighborhood.