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Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Tuesday, September 30, 2014
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Protestant clergy rarely preach about mental illness
to their congregations and only one-quarter of con-
gregations 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
that 66 per cent mention it rarely, once a year or
never, 26 per cent speak about it several times a year,
four per cent mention it about once a month, three
per cent 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 Stet-
zer.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 son Matthew, 27, 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 last Monday.
In contrast to the findings about the relative scant
attention the pastors give to the subject, almost seven
in ten mentally ill people said churches should help
families discover local resources for support.
Megachurch pastor Rick Warren and wife Kay. Their
son Matthew suffered from mental illness and killed
himself last year.
Survey: Few churches preach, assist with mental illness
While 68 per cent of pastors said their
church maintains a list of local mental health
resources for church members, just 28 per
cent of families are aware of such resources.
Jared Pingleton, director of counselling
services at Focus on the Family, said pastors
are often turned to for help but they may
not have had any seminary or Bible school
training to help them meet parishioners
mental health needs.
The survey found that less than half of
pastors---41 per cent---said they had taken
seminary courses on caring for the mentally
ill.LifeWay found that slightly more than a
quarter of pastors---27 per cent---said their
church has a plan for supporting families
with a mentally ill member.
Focus on the Family has developed
resources for pastors based on the research,
including "practical tools and tips about how
to make a referral to a trusted Christian col-
league," said Pingleton, a minister and clinical
psychologist who was on the conference call
with Kay Warren.
He said shared worldviews are "vital" in
the referral process "so that the pastor knows
that they can refer a member of their flock,
one of their sheep, to someone who will not,
as it were, fleece them."
The LifeWay survey did not specifically
address the issue of the faith of mental health
The survey results are based on a May 7-
31 survey of 1,000 Protestant pastors and
has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1
percentage points. Smaller random samples
of mentally ill and family members were
drawn from a pre-screened national panel.
(RNS/The Huffington Post)
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