statistics on churches and mental health show challenges

There’s a lot of info, data, and research about mental health, especially in medical and academic research, and now more than ever, the topic of psychology and spirituality are intersecting:

“The importance of spirituality in mental health is now widely accepted.”

Verghese, Abraham. “Spirituality and mental health.” Indian journal of psychiatry vol. 50,4 (2008): 233-7. doi:10.4103/0019-5545.44742

Yet we have quite a ways to go, for American and Asian American churches, to become known as safe places to go for people who struggle with mental health. Here are some very significant statistics—

Beliefs about Bible, Prayer, Psychology, and Psychiatry

48% of evangelical, fundamentalist, or born-again Christians believe that prayer and Bible study ALONE can overcome serious mental illness; but only 35% of all Americans, by contrast. (Lifeway Research, 2013)

what about Churches and Suicide Prevention

Churches as the community center, and pastors as its community leader, have a most valuable opportunity to help people with their mental and spiritual health holistically.

According to 2017 Lifeway Research’s “Suicide Remains a Taboo Topic at Churches,” 80% of pastors say their church is equipped to assist someone who is threatening suicide, but there’s a gap between intent and impact, preparation and prevention: 46% of pastors say their church regularly addresses mental illness, compared to 12% of churchgoers who say the same.

Churches should do more to prevent suicide, according to 64% of evangelical, fundamentalist or born-again Christians and 54% of all Americans. (Lifeway Research, 2013)

Mental health challenges of the next generation

49% of U.S. 18-35 year-olds expressed anxiety over important decisions and were afraid to fail. 39% said they often felt sad or depressed. 34% said they felt lonely and isolated from others. (Barna Research, 2020)

Pastors have mental health challenges too

26% of U.S. Protestant pastors say they have personally struggled with some type of mental illness. (Lifeway Research, 2022) Only 35% of America’s pastors rate themselves healthy in all 6 categories of well-being: spiritual, relational, physical, emotional, vocational and financial. (Barna, October 2021)

63% of pastors point to stress as a mental challenge they are facing in ministry, 48% noted discouragement and 48% noted distraction as their ministry mental challenges. When pastors were asked to rank their greatest mental challenge, 31% identified stress, 23% say distraction, and 18% chose discouragement. (Lifeway’s Stress Tops Mental Challenges Pastors Face, 2022; 17 Ministry Struggles Pastors Face)

How Churches Can Help Mental Health

89% of U.S. Protestant pastors say local churches have a responsibility to provide resources and support for individuals with mental illness and their families. (Lifeway Research, 2022) This chart shows an overview of what churches are currently doing:

How ready are church leaders with helping congregants with mental and emotional health? 30% say they feel “very well-equipped,” 64% notes they feel “somewhat equipped,” and 6% responded they are “not well-equipped.” (Barna Research, 2020)

23% of religious congregations offer some type of mental health programming (Wong, E.C., Psychiatric Services, Vol. 69, No. 2, 2018)

Also see related LifeWay Research articles, 13 Stats on Mental Health and the Church (2018) and Mental Illness Remains Taboo Topic for Many Pastors (2014.)

And, Americans are in a mental health crisis – especially African Americans. Can churches help? (2021)

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