Health Summit Tackles Mental Health Problems Among Adventist Pastors
5 February 2020 | Carlos Fayard, MD, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry at Loma Linda University, spoke about mental illness in Adventist clergy at the Inter-American Division’s health summit held in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, last month.
“Pastors have so many difficulties, so many challenges, like any other person, but as far as mental health there are certain elements that are unique in the work of pastoring congregations,” said Fayard, according to an Inter-American Division (IAD) report.
As there is little data on the mental health of Adventist clergy, Fayard quoted a 2019 survey done of 1,200 ministers in the Methodist Church in collaboration with Duke University.
“In regards to emotional well-being, the study, which surveyed 1,200 ministers, found that 8 percent of the clergy suffered from depression and 29 percent felt “down” and without hope – higher percentages than the 5.5 percent of the general population in the United States that suffer from depression,” said the IAD news report. “The Methodist study showed that 11 percent of their clergy admitted to suffering from depression in 2008, and showed that that number rose to 13 percent in 2010.”
The reasons for the mental health problems included work stress, social isolation, guilt and doubts about their calling as ministers.
Almost a fourth of all pastors (23 percent) admitted having struggled with mental illness.
“If one does not prevent this state of burnout among ministers a burning fire can develop,” said Fayard.
Pastors were frequently overworked and undernourished spiritually.
Fayard said that Adventist pastors could benefit from “a healthy marriage that provides a better chance of having a positive mental outlook so they are able to function with much more success in the pastoral ministry,” he said.
He advocated for a system that looked out for the mental health of Adventist pastors:
“Having a system of prevention in place, looking out for them, understanding how pastors view the cup – either half empty, half full or full, and helping identify the issues they are dealing with will aid in helping those dealing with mental illness,” said Fayard.
The IAD report summarized Fayard’s recommendations for struggling pastors as follows:
Pray privately each day.
Affirm your vocation by remembering Who called you, being clear in your purpose and calling.
Nurture healthy relationships. Perhaps seminary classmates are the best ones to understand someone who is in the minister’s shoes.
Know your profile, what gets you going, what drains you.
Take care of your needs. Learn to say no and say yes to the things that you need.
Have an accountability partner, participate in meetings with pastors
Participate in professional development activities, and
Keep good physical regimen.
Remember that family is your first calling.
“Our church needs to be about restoring people,” said Fayard. “Pastors that need support need not be afraid to seek help.”