We actually do quite a variety of things since we have been here. Marcia is busy counseling, teaching and searching for country resources to help our missionaries and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints here in the Philippines. She either has the phone next to her ear or is talking with someone in her office. It is a job that is on call 24/7. It is not an easy task for her as she cares for the Lord's missionaries but the blessings have been tremendous.
My job is to support Marcia and am her faithful side-kick. One of the things that I do is put together a newsletter each month. This newsletter is then distributed to all the mission presidents and their wives and other leadership around the country. I am the nuts and bolts guy of the letter as I edit it, put in filler pieces, and pictures. Marcia puts together a monthly note that is addressed to the mission presidents to help them in working with their missionaries. Over the next few weeks I will post those notes on this blog to give people an idea as to what information Marcia is sharing. It is informative and worth sharing. For those of you who aren't dealing with LDS missionaries-substitute college student, teenager, aging parent, or yourself. There is application for you and your needs.
What follows is from November of 2012.
Happy Fall and Thanksgiving!
Close your eyes and picture the beautiful colors, the crisp cool air, and enjoy these gorgeous Philippine Islands-see the best of both worlds. I have chosen to take different concepts that are common among missionaries and share some insights on each. This first month’s focus: homesickness and separation anxiety. Please let me know if there are specific topics you would like me to address sooner than later. This is not to give you the information and have you learn and implement, but rather to just give an overall insight on the topics. I also have a great testimony of humor and feel it is vital to keep a reason to smile in our minds at all times. Thus I am adding a paraprosdokian each month. As always it is such an honor to serve each of you… Mahal Kits!
Sister Marcia French LSCW, MSW, CPP
Philippine Area Mental Health Adviser
|Picture by Sue Anderson|
HOMESICKNESS AND SEPARATION ANXIETY
Homesickness often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It commonly comes as a surprise to the individual involved. Usually there is an absence of social supports. There is frequently a brief window of opportunity to intervene.
Characteristics of individuals prone to homesickness/separation anxiety:
· Low self-directedness
· A highly tentative approach to unfamiliar situations
· A wishful thinking coping style —dwelling on the wonderful aspects of home
· When homesickness takes them by surprise they may say, “I didn’t come out on the mission for the right reasons,” or “I don’t have a testimony.”
· Normalizing the homesickness—letting the missionary know feeling homesick is pretty normal.
· Help him/her build new social connections.
· Help them see their situation in perspective—typically they can see only two alternatives:
(1) go home; or (2) live in an unendurable situation.
· Help them use distractions- focus attention on current things-their work and relationships in the mission field.
· Sometimes it helps for them to speak with their family on the phone with the family reassuring
them of their support. One AMHA uses the phone call once, another may use several calls
reducing the frequency and phasing them out over time.
· Give the missionary permission to go through the problem rather than going out of it (ie. home).
· Shrink the problem down to size (works for people with disabilities too). Missionary has 324 new things to adapt to, but has already gotten the list down to 210. The things he has already faced are familiar now and don’t require getting anxious over again.
· Affirmations are helpful. Do in first person—“I will go, I will do. . . .”
· Review promise of God to Joshua (Joshua 1:5-9, be not afraid, turn not to the right hand or the left).
· Medication can be helpful at times.
· Tell missionary, “I’m here to help you-you’re going to be fine. I’ll e-mail material to you and then I’ll call and we’ll go through it together.” Call two days later.
· Give specific assignments to get the focus off home and the past to the present. Examples of assignments are: (1) learn the names of the other missionaries in your district; (2) learn the names of your local Church leaders (Bishop, Branch President, etc.); (3) check out local grocery store; (4) check out location of local barber shop, etc., anything to focus on the present and help the local environment to become more familiar.
Approaches which are not helpful include:
· Telling missionary, “If you don’t like it you can go home,” which gives the missionary the message that all he or she needs to do is wait you out. The missionary may sometimes view you as an obstacle in the way of getting what he or she wants, i.e.. going home.
· Imply to missionaries that there isn’t anything they can do about homesickness.
· Saying or doing something mean is like “upping the ante” for them if they want to go home.
· Missionaries who are homesick or have separation anxiety are in the same state of mind as someone addicted to a substance. All they can think of is getting that substance (in this case going home).
Intervention: sometimes doing an “intervention,” like is done with alcoholics or substance abusers, is useful. Have multiple people present—the Branch President, the Relief Society President, the zone leaders, the missionary’s companion, the Elder’s Quorum President. Each of these can describe when they have felt the same way in the past. Each can discuss how they can help the missionary feel better. The Relief Society President can figure out who can invite the missionary to dinner, etc. The leaders can devise ways to get the missionary involved in the community and focus on other things than going home.
Catching problems early is best. Do not hesitate to call me at any time with this or any other issue!