Focus on the Family Equips Pastors to Address Mental Illness in the Church

Colorado Springs, Colo. – People with mental illness turn first to the church for help, a groundbreaking study co-sponsored by Focus on the Family and carried out by LifeWay Research finds. In response, Focus is rolling out a collection of resources designed to help equip pastors and church leaders better minister to those with mental illness.

“Recent tragedies and events have made the country realize the need for a national conversation on the issue of mental health,” said Dr. Jared Pingleton, a licensed clinical psychologist and director of counseling at Focus on the Family. “The faith community must play a vital part in this discussion and help take away the stigma of mental illness. That’s why we want to help churches better understand these issues and be a place of healing for individuals and families.”

Room for improvement

The study – “Acute Mental Illness and Christian Faith” – outlines the results of interviews with Protestant pastors as well as Protestant individuals diagnosed with acute mental illness (depression, bipolar and schizophrenia) and their families. The report also addresses the impact of mental illness and the theological questions arising from it.

Findings show that while many churches are providing support for dealing with mental health issues, more must be done.

- 22 percent of pastors agree they are reluctant to get involved with those with acute mental illness because previous experiences strained time and resources

- 59 percent of pastors have counseled one or more people who were eventually diagnosed with an acute mental illness

- 53 percent of Christians diagnosed with mental illness say their church has been supportive

- 18 percent of survey participants have broken ties with a church as a result of the response of people in church to their mental illness

A detailed analysis of the study’s findings will be released by LifeWay Research on Monday, Sept. 22.

Focus Offers Helpful Tools for Pastors and Churches

A majority of pastors (56 percent) strongly agree local churches have a responsibility to provide resources and support to individuals with mental illness and their families. Focus’ resource, “Serving Those with Mental Illness,” is designed to help churches do just that.

Available through Focus’ Thriving Pastor outreach, this free e-book provides church leaders with a summary of “Acute Mental Illness and Christian Faith.” It also provides an overview of three ways pastors will most likely encounter people with mental illness – and offers guidelines to help them handle each scenario. Finally, the booklet helps pastors identify mental illness and make effective referrals for Christian counseling.

To coincide with the study’s release, Focus is airing a two-day broadcast on September 18-19 titled “How Mental Illness Affects Families,” hosted by Focus President Jim Daly and featuring guests Dr. Jared Pingleton, Don Graber, and Ricardo Whyte.

These new resources complement the long history of Focus’ counseling department providing a free counseling session, referrals, and practical help to individuals in need of support.

To coordinate media interviews, please email Allison Meggers at or call 719-266-7557.

For specific questions about LifeWay’s research, email Jon Wilke at or call 615-251-2797.

About Focus on the Family
Focus on the Family, which reaches about 238 million people in 130 countries, is a global faith-based ministry that helps families thrive. We provide help and resources for strengthening believers in their faith and sharing the gospel; building resilient marriages that reflect God’s design; equipping parents to raise their children with a thriving faith; advocating for the preborn, orphaned and life at every stage; and engaging the culture through a biblical worldview. Visit Focus at or on Facebook andTwitter. You can also follow the Focus PR team on Twitter.