That’s because some evidence suggests that when people seek help for a mental health issue, they may be more likely to seek out clergy, rather than medical professionals like physicians or even licensed therapists.
If pastors are as likely to be asked for help as mental health professionals—or perhaps even more likely—then a crucial question arises: are churches and church leaders equipped to handle this issue?
Unfortunately, many aren’t.
“We did a study of seminaries to see what kinds of mental health training pastors get,” says Stanford. The results were not encouraging: “it’s next to zero.”
So what training do pastors receive in seminary for these issues? “Most get one counseling course, and those focus more on family and marriage issues,” says Stanford. “When we do surveys of pastors, a vast majority—80 to 90 percent—say that they feel ill-equipped to deal with people with mental illness.” Considering the “next to zero” training for pastors in this area, that’s not too surprising.
What’s stopping the church?
Mental health is a complicated field, one that is foreign to much of the general population. And it’s seldom talked about publicly, even in churches: places meant for depth and healing. But mental health professionals have said that churches’ avoidance of these issues has recently started to change.