A Call To Action
Recent research into mental health and the church provides compelling evidence and direction for ministry strategies. The findings regarding depression, anxiety and loneliness can’t be ignored by ministry leaders. If a church or ministry really wants to get at the heart of current issues among congregants and believers, they need to face mental health head-on. In today’s blog, we look at several reasons why ministry leaders might want to re-examine their approach and response to mental health.
Anxiety and Depression on the Rise
Several in-depth studies have been conducted to track the rise of mental health in the church. One of those is Barna Group (barna.com), a research and resource company that has tracked the role of faith in America.
Mental health issues rose to the forefront, both in secular and spiritual realms, with Covid-19, but even before the pandemic hit, levels of depression and anxiety were already on the rise.
“Our studies over the years have really shown rise in anxiety, loneliness, depression, a sense of disconnect from others. It really defines Generation Z, as well as Millennials,” said David Kinnaman, President of Barna Group, regarding the group’s largest-ever study. “It’s essential that the church shows up to offer meaningful solutions in an era of anxiety.”
In the Barna study, data showed that almost half of U.S. 18-35-year-olds (49%), expressed anxiety over important decisions and were afraid to fail. Over three in 10 said they often felt said or depressed (39%) or lonely and isolated from others (34%).
“Only one-in-three young adults in the United States say they are loved by those close to them,” Kinnaman said. “So, this is a huge issue, and Covid has only increased all of that and intensified struggles for those with mental health.”
Young People Are At High Risk
Barna’s research uncovered harsh realities regarding young people and how they handled the pandemic and isolation.
“We discovered that young people were feeling very, very isolated and lonely,” said Mark Matlock, Director of Insights for the Barna Group. “What was interesting was when we out to talk to different pastors, we found out that a lot of them were cutting back their contacts and connections with teens and those 20-somethings, thinking that they would be okay and be the most resilient. But think about it, if you’re a teen or a young person, you’ve gone through a major disruption with things like your school, college and places of work.”
This passive approach to younger people in the church has only exasperated mental health issues.
Unprecedented Times Call for Unprecedented Response
A combination of a pandemic, race and justice, economic hardship and other factors have accelerated mental health struggles for many. Isolation, depression, worry, anxiety…it takes a toll.
“Christians are looking to the church for support for their mental health, and for support in the relationships affected by it,” Kinnaman said. “Loneliness defines our times – we are more connected but more disconnected than ever.”
This new-found insight regarding mental health provides motivation to create new strategies for care in the church. The library of LifeSupport Resources exists to help ministry and church leaders equip others to support people with mental health needs.