Aaron Earls with Lifeway Research writes for Christianity Today about the struggle younger pastors often have with mental health. Not only do a record number of young to middle-aged church leaders deal with those with mental issues, but many also endure diagnosed mental issues themselves.
Part of the problem comes from improved medicine over the past twenty years. Mental health professionals have more tools to diagnose issues, and younger pastors familiar with a modern medical environment are more likely to seek help. However, events of the past few years with COVID-19 almost certainly played a role.
Overall, more than half of church leaders have seen members suffer depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia.
A majority of pastors (54%) say in the churches where they have served on staff, they have known at least one church member who has been diagnosed with a severe mental illness such as clinical depression, bipolar, or schizophrenia.
Most of those pastors had experience with a small number of members: 18 percent say one or two and another 18 percent say three to five. Fewer pastors say they’ve known 6-10 (8%), 11-20 (5%) or more than 20 (6%). Around a third (34%) say none of their church members have been diagnosed with a severe mental illness, while 12 percent don’t know.
Twenty-six percent of US Protestant pastors say they have personally struggled with some type of mental illness, including 17 percent who say it was diagnosed and 9 percent who say they experienced it but were never diagnosed. Three-quarters (74%) say they’ve never dealt with a mental illness.
Compared to a 2014 Lifeway Research study, a similar number of pastors today say they have endured mental illness themselves (26% v. 23%). More pastors now, however, say they have been diagnosed (17% v. 12%).
Pastors struggle to meet parishioners’ mental health needs, study says