Mental health and the ministry
By its very nature, ministry is people-intensive work. Some of the people we encounter, occasionally or regularly, will be dealing with significant mental health issues. Sometimes we will encounter these individuals in our own homes, and sometimes they will be us! Since most pastors are not professional counsellors, it might be helpful to know a few things about some of the common or stressful mental health conditions you may find yourself dealing with.
It has been estimated that one in five people suffer from some type of mental illness at some point in their life. Studies have noted that a pastor is often the first person consulted about issues of this nature. However, as LiveScience reported, “In a study of Christian church members who approached their church for help with a personal or family member’s diagnosed mental illness, researchers found that more than 32 per cent were told by their pastor that they or their loved one did not really have a mental illness.” Some pastors unfortunately still tell people that their problems are purely spiritual in nature.
Though spirituality and its impact should never be ignored or discounted, significant numbers of individuals, including clergy, suffer from identifiable forms of mental illness. When we understand something about these conditions, we can be more effective in recommending remedies to help people manage them.
Let’s talk about three categories of mental health: mood disorders, anxiety disorders and personality disorders.