RESEARCH ON MENTAL ILLNESS AND CHURCH ATTENDANCE

Demon or Disorder: A Survey of Attitudes Toward Mental Illness in the Church. This study examined responses of 293 self-identified protestant and Catholic Christians recruited from online discussion forums on mental health-related topics. Key findings include:

  • 30% of attendees who sought help from their church for themselves or a family member because of a mental health condition reported negative interactions counterproductive to treatment.
  • Women are significantly more likely than men to report being told by their church that they don’t have a mental health disorder (37%), discouragement from their church about the use of medication for mental disorders (23%), and report negative interactions with their church (41%).
  • Reports of negative interactions from church attendees fall into three categories: abandonment or lack of involvement by the church (60%), mental disorder considered the result of demonic activity (21%), and mental disorder considered the result of a lack of faith / personal sin (19%).
  • 15% of adults who sought help from their church for a mental illness for themselves or a family member reported a weakening of faith as a result of their interaction, and for 13%, their interaction resulted in the end of their involvement with their faith.

Study of Acute Mental Illness and Christian Faith: This study, co-sponsored by Lifeway Research and Focus on the Family was designed to help churches better assist persons affected by mental illness. The study involved interviews with 1,000 senior pastors from Protestant churches who were questioned about their church’s approaches to mental illness, 355 Protestant adults diagnosed with either moderate/severe depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, and 207 Protestant family members of adults with depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Key findings include:

  • Few churches have plans to assist families affected by mental illness
  • Few churches are staffed with a counselor skilled in mental illness
  • There is a lack of training for leaders on how to recognize mental illness
  • There is a need for churches to communicate to congregations about local mental health resources
  • There is a stigma and culture of silence that leads to shame