Date of Conferral
Dr. Susana Verdinelli
The Amish are commonly known for horse-and-buggies, simple clothing, and refusal to use electricity. Less commonly known is their rate of mental illness, which is significantly lower than the non-Amish population. The literature that points to lower depression and anxiety among the Amish does not adequately explain what elements of their lifestyle contribute to this phenomenon. Depression and anxiety are a widespread problem in the United States, increasing the importance of understanding a lifestyle that can reduce these issues. The purpose of this study was to explore the Amish way of life through the words of its members. The three research questions that drove this investigation inquired how the Amish conceptualize mental illness, if and how they seek help for mental stress, and what elements of their lifestyle may protect them from higher rates of depression and anxiety. This qualitative study employed social constructionism as the conceptual framework and positive psychology as the theoretical foundation. Data collection employed a purposeful, maximum variation sample and consisted of 14 in depth, semi-structured, face-to-face interviews. Data analysis employed phenomenological techniques as outlined by Moustakas. Elements of the Amish lifestyle contributing to positive mental health include the increasing availability of Amish focused treatment centers, bishops who encourage mental health treatment, family ties, social bonds, work ethic, and the most significant to the Amish: their faith. This study contributes to positive social change by discovering elements of Amish life that may be practical to the non-Amish. If non-Amish find positive meaning from the elements of Amish life, it may lead to lower rates of depression and anxiety.