As Christian churches join other societal institutions in grappling with mental illness, a new survey reveals that nearly one in four Protestant preachers have experienced mental health issues, with 12 percent admitting that they've received a diagnosis, according to Lifeway Research, a faith-based firm.
Clinical psychologist Chuck Hannaford, who was among the experts interviewed in the recent study, said that many of these preachers don't openly share their struggles with parishioners.
But while he doesn't believe preachers need to divulge all of the details, he said acknowledging their overarching issues might be beneficial.
"You know it’s a shame that we can’t be more open about it," Hannaford said. "But what I’m talking about is just an openness from the pulpit that people struggle with these issues and it’s not an easy answer."
The results show that the proportion of pastors admitting mental health struggles is similar to the one-in-four among the general public who report the same.
While the issue is a substantial struggle for many people inside and outside of the church, 66 percent of pastors told Lifeway that they rarely speak about mental health from the pulpit; 33 percent, though, said that they address the issue at least several times per year if not more often.
Researchers also found that those suffering from mental illness often turn to churches for help, but that faith leaders are in need of additional information about how to manage the issue.
"Our research found people who suffer from mental illness often turn to pastors for help," Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research, said in a statement. "But pastors need more guidance and preparation for dealing with mental health crises. They often don’t have a plan to help individuals or families affected by mental illness, and miss opportunities to be the church."
The research found that only 27 percent of churches have a plan to help families cope with mental illness, though 68 percent of pastors did say that their churches have a list of local mental health resources available for parishioners.
The problem? Only 21 percent of Protestant family members of those with mental illnesses said that they are aware of church plans, with 28 percent claiming they know about lists of resources at their church.
Read the full results here.
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TheBlaze reported earlier this year about Pastor Perry Noble of NewSpring Church in South Carolina, who revealed that he began taking anti-depressants after experiencing suicidal thoughts.
Noble said that for years he had told parishioners that the solution to mental anguish and depression was simple: pray more, read the Bible and work hard to memorize scripture.
But his own battle with depression and anxiety later changed all that, causing him to reverse course on nearly everything he had said and felt about mental illness. Read his story here.
The pastoral data in Lifeway's research was derived from 1,000 phone surveys with Protestant pastors between May 7-31, 2014, with the data being weighted to reflect the size and geography of Protestant churches. The data has a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent.
(H/T: Christianity Today)
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