A pastor’s suicide should be a wake-up call about mental health and ministry

Source: CT

Andrew Stoecklein

I still hear people wondering why a pastor needs a day off. The comment usually taking the form of ‘I have a full time job outside the church, AND volunteer with my spare time. I don’t get time to myself either.’And therein lies the problem.

Ministry brings unique pressures that few understand. The pressures are spiritual, emotional, psychological and physical. The pressures can lead to burn out, depression and other illnesses, and if you already have an existing mental illness, then dealing with being a pastor can be an even bigger pressure. Some can manage it with planning and medication, others struggle to cope and don’t feel they can talk to anyone for fear of being seen as a failure.

But it isn’t a failure. Nor is it a lack of ‘faith’. It often takes more faith, more trust and more ‘grit’ to live your Christian walk when you have mental illness. I stand in awe of my step son who carries on with his faith, and loves God so much, in spite of chronic mental illness.

Although I don’t have any mental health issues myself, I have lived with it up close and personal in my family. But I have also seen the tide of accusations that hit those family members because ‘Christians don’t get depressed.’ This meant that some of my family didn’t get the professional help they needed.

I long to see an end to the stigma of mental illness for those who minister. I want to see our churches as a place where people can flourish, regardless of their ‘position’ and their mental health.

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