Majority of US Protestant Pastors, Congregants Suffer From COVID-induced Mental Health Problems — Study

Majority of US Protestant Pastors, Congregants Suffer From COVID-induced Mental Health Problems — Study

A recent article by Christianity Today based on the results of a study revealed some alarming facts about US-based Christians' mental health conditions.

For one, over 50% of the respondents said they had witnessed church members battle schizophrenia, clinical depression, bipolar disorder, and other mental health problems.

Some respondents even revealed that they had to deal with a mental health issue personally, which makes the problem too close to home.

What the Study Results Revealed

The study conducted by Lifeway Research on US Protestant pastors showed that 54% of the pastors they interviewed admitted to seeing at least one member of their church falling victim to a severe mental health issue.

Lifeway Research held the study in September last year, with the results available to the public this year.

Other revelations from the study include the following:

  • 36% of pastors said they knew of one to five parishioners with a severe mental health condition

  • 34% said they did not have church members with a serious mental health issue

  • 18% of pastors admitted to knowing six to 20 churchgoers who were diagnosed with a severe mental health problem

  • 12% said they were unaware if someone in their congregation suffered from a serious mental health condition

Lifeway Executive Director Scott McConnell noted that younger pastors have a higher awareness of mental health issues among their congregation than older pastors.

"There is a healthy generational shift occurring as younger and middle-aged pastors are much more likely to have encountered people in the church with severe mental illness than the oldest pastors," Christianity Today quoted McConnell saying.

He explained that it is not definitive whether the number of churchgoers suffering from severe mental health problems is rising or whether the congregation members feel more comfortable confiding about their situation with the younger generation of pastors.

According to the same article, 52% of pastors without a college degree and 46% aged 65 and older were likely to say they did not know any churchgoer with a serious mental health issue.  

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Pastors With Personal Mental Health Struggles

According to the Christianity Today article, 12% of pastors in 2014 admitted they were diagnosed with mental health problems. In 2021, it rose to 17%.

Meanwhile, 11% of pastors asked in 2014 said they had an undiagnosed mental health issue; in 2021, it slightly dipped to 9%.

Additionally, 77% of respondents in 2014 revealed they were not diagnosed with a mental health problem; in 2021, it dropped slightly to 74%.

McConnell revealed that the COVID-19 pandemic caused many Americans to face problems with their mental health.

He said that, thankfully, many US Protestant pastors were seeking professional help concerning their mental health struggles.

McConnell explained that this is evidenced by the rise in the number of pastors diagnosed with mental health problems.

He added that younger pastors have the highest possibility of admitting they have a mental health issue among the different age brackets.

Church's Response

According to the same article, pastors in many churches across the country are most likely to discuss mental health issues with their congregation at least once yearly.

The report said that 60% of US Protestant preachers talk about serious mental health conditions in their sermons once each year. In comparison, around 30% said they discuss the topic multiple times a year.

Meanwhile, 89% of US Protestant pastors said their local churches are obligated to offer support and resources to people with severe mental health issues. 

The article said that those forms of assistance extend to the affected individuals' families.

McConnell explained that these figures show that Protestant pastors are taking a proactive stance about the matter and doing the best they can to offer help to churchgoers with serious mental health conditions.

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