The Church and Mental Health

The Church and Mental Health, Dr. Brad Schwall

The church and ministers are first responders.  Church staff and members are often the first to respond to crises, challenges, and trauma.  People facing depression, divorce, anxiousness, and loss often go to the church first for help.  In order to care for the spiritual lives of those in our congregations, we must be prepared to address the challenges and needs that arise in their relational, emotional, and mental lives.

Mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, or substance dependence are real and have both physical and spiritual implications.  Often, people may maintain a reasonable level of functioning, but still be facing struggles.  But, functioning can become drastically impacted and family and those involved in the person’s life are greatly impacted as the issue intensifies.  We can care effectively by noticing the subtle signs of relational, emotional, or mental difficulties and by being prepared for the crises that require intervention. 

Recent research indicates that pastors still avoid directly addressing issues related to mental health:  Summary of Research in Christianity Today 

Jesus speaks of the call to meet all needs in Matthew 25:

34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’…40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

Caring for the sick includes caring for individuals and families when they need attention to their mental well-being.  The church can be a vital component to healing and we must communicate that those who may face mental health difficulties can find care and hope in the church. 

  • We can ensure that our sermons and lessons are sensitive to mental health matters.
  • We can apply biblical and theological principles to the challenges we all face related to mental and relational health.
  • We can offer wellness classes on mental health maters.
  • We can make professional care accessible sending the message that it is OK to get help and that God provides help to us through compassionate people who also have expertise that may be of help. 
  • In order to help people effectively as the church and as caring ministers and mental healthcare providers, we must develop a strong relationship between the church and specialized helping professionals.

The Pastoral Counseling Center provides training on the following topics:

  1. Recognizing the signs of emotional, relational, and mental health struggles
  2. Diagnosis 101- a summary of core mental health issues
  3. Treatment 101 - a summary of the roles of different mental health professionals and their approaches to helping
  4. When and how to refer
  5. How to provide follow-up support
  6. Addressing mental health issues we all face with the broader church in worship and Bible study

Learn About PCC’s Talks on Mental Health and the Church for Church Staff by e-mailing Dr. Brad Schwall – [email protected]