1) How often do you hear about mental health in your church?
2) How many people in the church experience mental illness?
3) How many pastors experience mental illness?
If your answers are:
1. once a year, rarely, or never, your experience would match 66% of churches in America. (see link to Christianity Today article below)1
2. 1 in 4, the same as people outside the church, you would be correct
3. 1 in 4, the same as the general population, you would once again be correct.
Surprised? You might be thinking, “I thought within the church we should be better off or more healthy than those outside the church.” Or perhaps you might be thinking “surely pastors are healthier people than the ‘rest of us’.” Nope! We who spend time in churches experience the same levels of mental health problems as the general population of the United States. But sadly, we may be more reluctant to seek professional help.
How many people think mental health should be discussed more often in church? LifeWay Research found that 59-65% of churchgoers would like to talk more about mental illness in church. LifeWay Research also found that 68% of churches maintain a list of mental health providers, but only 28% of church members know about those resources.
Many people turn to their pastors for help when they have encounter mental health or addictions issues, and many pastors are equipped to help a little, and certainly pray with you and connect you with support and community. However, most pastors do not have the training or availability to walk people through mental health counseling that is often required to cope with mental illness.
So, what do we do about it? Talk about it. Talk about it in your small groups. Talk about it with people with whom you have built community. Talk about it from the pulpit. Help people get the help they need. If you are a pastor, be a model for others by seeking help yourself.
On behalf of Christian Family Institute, I would like to thank Tony Cooke Ministries for a recent invitation to discuss suicide and how concerned people can help. We would also like to thank River Oaks Presbyterian Church for tackling issue of mental health from the pulpit this August.
This article was in response to 1 Christianity Today’s article posted by Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra on 9/22/14. You should read it. Also, you should talk about mental health at church.
by Dr. Tim Doty