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Sunday, September 1, 2013

Clergy: Keeping it all inside

(Public Domain)
When it comes to anxiety and depression, members of the clergy often have to "stuff it."

Congregational members tend to expect clergy to be shining examples of mental health.  They want someone to tell their own troubles to - and aren't exactly keen on commiserating with the minister's sorrows.  Instead, they would like to think that faith in God guarantees a life lived in serene contentment.

Nevertheless, Katherine Bindley of Huffington Post reports that researchers from the Clergy Health Initiative at Duke Divinity School "found that instances of depression [in United Methodist pastors interviewed by phone and via online surveys)] were 8.7 percent and 11.1 percent, respectively, compared to the average national rate of 5.5 percent."

Rae Jean Proeschold-Bell, "the Clergy Health Initiative's research director," has several theories about why pastors exhibit "above-average rates of depression."  One is that pastors, more than most others, wonder whether the life they've been living has been pleasing to God.  If they feel that they don't measure up, depression could easily result.

Another theory is that the congregation's high expectations put a tremendous amount of emotional pressure on the minister.  Such pressure is bound to take its toll sooner or later.

The cure?  Steven Scroggin, who heads "a network of pastoral counseling centers based in North Carolina," advises that more be done within seminary education to better prepare pastors for having firmer emotional and psychological boundaries.


Copyright September 1, 2013 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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