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 Allison.Meggers@fotf.org or call 719-266-7557.For specific questions about LifeWay’s research, email Jon Wilke at Jon.Wilke@lifeway.com or call 615-251-2797.