The latest findings from Lifeway Research reveal pastors are just as likely to suffer from a mental illness as members of their congregation, but few rarely talk about it personally or from the pulpit.
From the Lifeway Research blog:
Mental Illness Remains Taboo Topic for Many Pastors
One in four Americans suffers from some kind of mental illness in any given year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Many look to their church for spiritual guidance in times of distress. But they’re unlikely to find much help on Sunday mornings.
Most Protestant senior pastors (66 percent) seldom speak to their congregation about mental illness.
That includes almost half (49 percent) who rarely (39 percent) or never (10 percent), speak about mental illness. About 1 in 6 pastors (16 percent) speak about mental illness once a year. And about quarter of pastors (22 percent) are reluctant to help those who suffer from acute mental illness because it takes too much time.
Those are among the findings of a recent study of faith and mental illness by Nashville-based Lifeway Research. The study, co-sponsored by Focus on the Family, was designed to help churches better assist those affected by mental illness.
Researchers looked at three groups for the study.
They surveyed 1,000 senior Protestant pastors about how their churches approach mental illness. Researchers then surveyed 355 Protestant Americans diagnosed with an acute mental illness—either moderate or severe depression, bipolar, or schizophrenia. Among them were 200 church-goers.
A third survey polled 207 Protestant family members of people with acute mental illness.
Researchers also conducted in-depth interviews with 15 experts on spirituality and mental illness.
Read the entire story at Lifeway Research, including a link to the full report.
The research also pinpointed several “key disconnects” between the needs of the mentally ill and the help available at the church.
- Only a quarter of churches (27 percent) have a plan to assist families affected by mental illness according to pastors. And only 21 percent of family members are aware of a plan in their church.
- Few churches (14 percent) have a counselor skilled in mental illness on staff, or train leaders how to recognize mental illness (13 percent) according to pastors.
- Two-thirds of pastors (68 percent) say their church maintains a list of local mental health resources for church members. But few families (28 percent) are aware those resources exist.
- Family members (65 percent) and those with mental illness (59 percent) want their church to talk openly about mental illness, so the topic will not be a taboo. But 66 percent of pastors speak to their church once a year or less on the subject.
Previously, Facts & Trends has written about the hope that churches can offer to those with mental illness and how Americans view the connection between mental illness and mass shootings.
We also reported on Lifeway Research’s findings that half of evangelicals believe mental illness can be cured by prayer and Bible reading alone, megachurch pastor Perry Noble’s opening up about his own struggle with depression, and how pastors can be at a greater risk for certain mental illnesses.