A new survey looks at how this subject is treated in Protestant churches. But I can’t say it gets much attention in the Catholic Church, either.
Protestant clergy rarely preach about mental illness to their congregations and only one-quarter of congregations have a plan in place to assist members who have a mental health crisis, a new LifeWay Research survey found.
The findings, in a nation where one in four Americans have suffered with mental illness, demonstrate a need for greater communication, said Ed Stetzer, executive director of the evangelical research firm, a ministry of LifeWay Christian Resources, which is an agency of the Southern Baptist Convention.
When it comes to mental illness, researchers found:
66 percent mention it rarely, once a year or never
26 percent speak about it several times a year
4 percent mention it about once a month
3 percent talk about it several times a month.
“When we look at what we know statistically — the prevalence of mental illness and the lack of preaching on the subject — I think that’s a disconnect,” said Stetzer.
The survey taken among evangelical and mainline churches was funded by Colorado-based Focus on the Family and an anonymous donor whose family member suffered from schizophrenia. It included the perspectives of pastors, churchgoers who have suffered from mental illness — depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia — and family members of the mentally ill.Author Kay Warren commended the survey’s findings and said she and her husband, megachurch pastor Rick Warren, have been vocal about the “terrible scourge.” Their 27-year-old son, Matthew, suffered from mental illness and killed himself last year.
She urged church leaders to not only preach about it but allow those struggling with mental illness to give testimonies to their congregations.
“I would encourage any pastor or church leader, yes preach a message, but put in front of your people those who are living with mental illness so they can share their stories and become human in that process,” she said in a conference call Monday (Sept. 22) about the survey.
In contrast to the findings about the relative scant attention the pastors give to the subject, almost seven in 10 mentally ill people said churches should help families discover local resources for support.
October is Respect Life month. I can’t think of a better time to bring up this subject—and, just maybe, save a life.