Can I make a confession here? I still like the Awake! magazine that the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society publishes. As a former Jehovah’s Witness, I no longer have a subscription so I’m not up to date on all of them, but when I do get my hands on one I usually enjoy the articles. They’re rarely controversial and often upbeat and informative.
Recently I stopped to read the bulletin board at my local grocery store where someone had left 4 Awake! magazines. Likely the same sister I’d seen in the store that day. It was all the same issue, No. 1 2017 on Teen Depression. I took them all off the counter so no one else could have a chance to read them. Even though I don’t consider the contents of those magazines very dangerous, they do serve as a lure to get readers interested in studying with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Something I do find dangerous and deceiving. And so, I have 4 copies of the same Awake! magazine sitting at my desk.
Like so many of their previous articles, it quotes from sources outside the Watchtower. In this case, they reference the World Health Organization (WHO) and their statistics on depression. Even as a JW, I wondered at the audacity of the organization to rely on “worldly” educated people to provide the content for these articles while training their flock to avoid college and such influence. The researchers from whom they get their information are not “Jehovah’s people” after all. They could be born again Christians, atheists, Muslim or Hindu. Who knows, even a disfellowshipped Witness who went to college? They might be divorced, living together, or gay. All the kinds of people Jehovah’s Witnesses are taught to avoid as “bad association.” Yet these magazines are read by them and inevitably a brother or sister in the congregation will praise the Society for such timely information from Jehovah as if it came directly from Him straight to His “channel” and “mouthpiece” the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.
So what’s in this brief article on teen depression? After noting some common causes linked to depression such as the death of a loved one or sexual abuse, on page 5 it reads “especially if a child feels rejected as a result. A related factor may be unrealistically high parental expectations, perhaps in regard to scholastic achievement. Other possible causes are bullying, uncertainty about the future, emotional estrangement by a depressed parent, and parental unpredictability.”
Wow. How spot on is that? No wonder so many teens (and adults) are depressed in the Kingdom Hall. Sexual abuse is swept under the rug with their famous “two witness rule” and their shunning practices give a clear message to all that they are one step away from rejection. Emotional estrangement is a common occurrence for one associated with this organization. A child can lose a parent over such minor offences as smoking a cigarette or attending a church service. Relatives and family friends can be ripped out of a child’s life at one announcement during a meeting. Unrealistic high expectations are a regular part of being one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. In fact many describe it as being on a hamster wheel going round and round and never getting anywhere. Jehovah’s Witness children are often bullied for standing out in school for not saluting the flag or participating in holidays, band, sports, plays, or other normal school activities. There is no future held out other than Armageddon and working for the Society. Not only is there uncertainty about the future, there is a hardcore fear coupled with nightmares triggered by years of indoctrination through graphic images depicting “Jehovah’s wrath” poured out on all their school friends (and researchers that provide information for their magazines) at the end of this system of things which is always said to be “just around the corner.”
The article goes on to provide some good advice on taking care of one’s health through proper sleep and nutrition habits and offers “Confide in someone you trust. A supportive network of close family members and friends may help you to cope more effectively with your depression, possibly reducing symptoms.” Aww… how nice. But I wonder how a young person can find someone to trust in this organization which upon hearing the frustrations of it’s members resorts to condemning them at a hearing of elders who recommend cutting them off from all family and friends? And if the young person is depressed as a result of sexual molestation, they will only be rejected under their two witness rule. There is no support network in this religion, especially for their most vulnerable members: children. How can there possibly be any confidants to trust when members are required to go to the elders with the confessions of their depressed family members or friends?
In my own experience, I confided my frustrations to a fellow JW in a confidential letter and the elders read back to me that same letter in my hearings. I was shocked. But she had turned it in to them like any other member of the flock was trained to do. It did not matter to the elders that I was depressed and struggling. They didn’t take my fragility into consideration nor offered any encouragement when I told them that I loved Jehovah and was still reading my Bible. Though this article points out that persons who pour their hearts out to God in prayer will be heard and comforted, in actuality the elders disagree with that. They told me Jehovah was disappointed in me and would not hear my prayers unless I returned to attend the meetings. They also informed me that my Bible reading was futile since I was doing so without the aid of the Watchtower’s interpretation. I hardly call this a support network to trust.
Even so, I still say the Awake! magazine offers some well balanced articles. I find nothing at all wrong with this one published on teen depression. The words are good. But what a front! They look so good on the outside and yet those of us who’ve been there know the truth about the ravenous wolves that control from within. There is no compassion for depressed teens in that organization. There is no compassion for anyone there. It’s a business with a bottom line and if the cogs in their wheel aren’t operating at peak performance, they can be easily cast aside. By the time a child in the organization gets to their teen years, they’ve seen it happen. Everyone is expendable.
The front cover of that magazine is titled “Teen Depression: Why? What can help?” I know that depression has many causes and not all of them have to do with the Watchtower, but as regards teen depression within the ranks of Jehovah’s Witnesses I would answer their question ‘what can help?’ with the title of the magazine itself: AWAKE! Yes, wake up and smell the coffee. Get out! Go on line and do your research! Join some ExJW discussion groups! Know you’re not alone in this! The organization is crazy, not you!!
Keep yourself in God’s love,