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A quarter of pastors struggle with mental illness

Many pastors in the U.S say they’ve known at least one church member who was diagnosed with severe mental illness. A new survey by Lifeway Research has also revealed that the percentage of pastors who are struggling to cope with mental illness has risen.

The poll was released on Aug. 2, and it showed that 54 percent of Protestant pastors in the U.S. have known of church members “diagnosed with a severe mental illness such as clinical depression, bipolar or schizophrenia” in their congregations.

Christian Headlines reports:

“Nearly one in five (18%) pastors say they know of three to five members who fit that description, and 8% of pastors know of six to 10.

‘There is a healthy generational shift occurring as younger and middle-aged pastors are much more likely to have encountered people in church with severe mental illness than the oldest pastors,’ said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research.

‘However, it is not clear whether the presence of those with difficult mental illnesses is increasing among church members or if they have simply felt more comfortable sharing their diagnosis with younger pastors,’ McConnell added.”

The survey also brought to light a slightly higher percentage of pastors who are coping with mental illness than in previously surveyed years. The number of pastors who said they have “personally struggled with mental illness of any kind” went up from 23 percent in 2014 to 26 percent.

“A total of 17% of pastors say it was diagnosed. Pastors aged 18-44 (22%) are more likely to say they have struggled with mental illness and it was diagnosed than are pastors aged 45-54 (15%) and 65-plus (15%).”

The difficulties related to the pandemic likely contributed to the rise in diagnoses, with younger pastors facing added stress while helping their congregations.

“‘During the COVID-19 pandemic, many Americans have faced challenges to their mental health,’ McConnell said. ‘More pastors today are seeking professional help as evidenced by more having been diagnosed with mental illness. Younger pastors are the most likely to say they have endured mental illness.’

A total of 68% of pastors say they maintain a list of experts to refer people to. The survey involved interviews with 1,000 Protestant pastors.”

The types of resources available for those who suffer from mental illness range from a list of experts, support for other family members, training to identify symptoms, and host community groups.

Research Lifeway reports:

“When asked about specific types of care their churches provide for those suffering from mental illness or their families, more than 4 in 5 pastors say they offer something. Almost 7 in 10 (68%) say their church maintains a list of experts to whom they can refer people. Two in 5 (40%) have a plan for supporting families of those with mental illness. Around a quarter say they provide training for encouraging people with mental illness (26%), offer programs like Celebrate Recovery (26%), or offer topical seminars on depression or anxiety (23%). Close to 1 in 5 provide training for leaders to identify symptoms of mental illness (20%), host groups in their community that help those with mental illness (20%), or have a counselor on staff skilled in mental illness (18%). Another 7% say they provide another resource.”

Read the full articles here and here.

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