MR says: How can we learn from Christ's example and better minister and love those with mental and emotional disorders? To learn about how you can also take care of yourself while you help support someone with a mental disorder, click here.
Emotional and behavioral disorders affect members of all ages, in most wards today. They include Autism Spectrum Disorder, Attention Deficit-Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), Eating Disorders, Depression, Anxiety, Alzheimer’s, and Dementia among many others.
Recognizing an individual’s disability is the first step toward understanding how to help them feel that they are an important and contributing member within the ward family.
There’s much more information about each condition available today than ever before. We’ve been given more ‘light and knowledge’ in our dispensation than in previous ones and it is up to each of us to meet the call and mission to ‘love our neighbors’.
President Uchtdorf said:
What the Savior would want to know is how we love and minister to those in our care.
Understanding the challenges that people with emotional and behavioral disorders face is a key component in developing ways to serve and help them become effective members of the ward.
This article will hopefully address and answer these questions on how to minister to, serve and teach ‘the one’.
1. Identify the Needs of the Individual
Ask! Never assume. Ask people what they need. Ask the person’s family members, parents or caregivers if needed. Ask the people who are closest to the individual and situation.
In an interview with Dr. Bruce Johns PhD., and former Bishop, from N. Logan, UT, he says this, ” Most people actually appreciate others who try to understand by simply asking and even learning about them and their conditions. Inside these people are wonderful spirits—getting to know them will bless everyone’s lives.”
Auxiliary presidencies, Home Teachers, and Visiting Teachers are uniquely placed to do this if they have been faithfully exercising their callings.
Bishops can’t do everything. Those who minister most closely to these individuals are usually in the best position to learn their individual needs.
If you are in one of those positions, and don’t know how to begin what may seem like a difficult conversation, ask the Lord! Pray for inspiration to receive knowledge that only the Lord knows. He knows each person individually and showed the way, by His many examples of service. Consider the following questions as you begin the process of integration.
Which age group/auxiliary or quorum does the individual fit into? Who are his peers and/or friends? Her likes and interests?
Which ward members know the individual or situation and may be in a position to help? What tools do they need to do so?
Are family members able to help? What information can they offer? Do they have any needs themselves?
How is the person with the disability/disorder likely to respond to: overtures of friendship, fellowship or visiting leadership? Which approach may be most accepted by the individual.
2. Develop and Follow through with a Plan of Action
Always correlate and follow-up whether it’s a ward council, bishopric, quorum or auxiliary Presidency.
Utilize the power of prayer, once again, to make inspired assignments or adjustments in calling the appropriate people to assist and work with these individuals. The Lord has already put into place those who can best meet the need.
It’s up to the leaders and teachers to, “put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good–yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously;” (Doctrine and Covenants 11:12).
When ward or stake disability specialists are available, work with them. Members who are called to positions of service need only have one particular attribute: a spirit of love and willingness to learn. Educating members who serve need not be complicated. Knowledge is the key for those who serve. Everything else will be given as it is needed and asked for.