Mental Illness statistics and the Church
In 2010 Leadership Journal conducted a survey of 500 churches, using the National Alliance on Mental Illness definition of mental illnesses: "medical conditions that disrupt a person's thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others, and daily functioning" and "often result in a diminished capacity for coping with the ordinary demands of life." We asked about their personal and pastoral experiences with mental illness.
In 2014 we conducted the same survey again to get an updated look. On most points, responses were very consistent. In both years, 98 percent of respondents said they had seen some type of mental illness in their congregations. And the percentage that said mental illness is openly discussed in a healthy way within their churches (12%) was unchanged.
But there were a few interesting points of change:
• In 2010, 7 percent of survey respondents said they were never approached for help in dealing with mental illness. In 2014, that rose to 12 percent. Does this reflect a general decrease in the number of people going to the church (historically the number-one place people go) for help with mental illness?
• In 2014, only 44 percent (53% in 2010) indicated that their church sometimes responds to mental illness by ignoring it. The percentage who said they have made special allowances to accommodate the needs of a person's mental illness grew (from 30% to 41%). At the same time, those who said they sometimes ask people to leave their churches, either temporarily or permanently, because of mental illness, doubled (from 8% to 17%).
• The percentage of church leaders who said they personally provide pastoral counseling/treatment for mental illness decreased (from 61% to 51%).
• These four years saw a small decrease in the percentage of church leaders who indicated their congregation believes the following about mental illness:
- It's indicative of demon possession/demonic influence (2010, 20%; 2014, 15%).
- It's a reflection of a spiritual problem that must be treated spiritually (2010, 31%; 2014, 26%).
- It's a behavioral problem caused by a person's bad choices (2010, 29%; 2014, 27%).
• Church leaders in 2014 were more likely to indicate that they have personally suffered from some type of mental illness (63% vs. 55% in 2010). 35 percent had experienced an anxiety disorder, the most common type of mental illness in the United States (23% in 2010). 44 percent said they had suffered from a mood disorder such as depression (39% in 2010).
The percentage indicating such mental illness was present in their families (81%) did not change.
For More Help
For information about the ministry organizations mentioned in this article, check out their websites:
Mental Health Grace Alliance
When Pastors Pray
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