Why Are So Many in Ministry Struggling With Mental Health and Can It Be Prevented?

What to do if you're facing a mental health crisis

I would love to tell you that having a relationship with the Lord allows you an exemption on having mental health issues, but I would be lying. Mental health refers to how we think, feel, and act and includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being.

Frankly, I feel that any type of ministry position makes you more susceptible to these issues as a result of the isolation that often comes with leading in ministry. I can’t tell you the number of individuals I know who feel if they admit a moment of weakness, they will no longer be qualified to lead. This is the complete opposite of healthy leadership. Leading well starts with leading yourself. 

So, what do you do to lead yourself well in the face of a mental health issue?

Be honest with yourself

Please do not buy into the lie that you are above any mental health issue. No one is exempt. If you start feeling down, depressed, anxious, or having thoughts that are not the usual, do not just dismiss it as indigestion. Take note of these thoughts. Ask the Holy Spirit what the root might be. Letting the Holy Spirit lead you will take you to the root, not just deal with the symptoms

Be honest with someone you trust

Ecclesiastes 4:9–12 talks about the value of having someone to partner with in the face of adversity (my own paraphrase here). It is so imperative that we have a person, whether it is a spouse, mentor, or friend. Someone who can see us at our worst and do whatever is necessary to not allow us to stay there. We must collect the courage to allow this person to see this side of us.

Take it seriously

I always say, it is better to regret doing something than not doing something. I wonder how many people who have lost someone to suicide wish they would have said something, done something, or really heeded the warning signs? The answer is a lot. I have counseled many of them. It is also crucial that you take it seriously in yourself, don’t think you can just go on another day or make another excuse, we are not promised tomorrow.

See yourself (and others you are in ministry with) as worth it

We have all heard or used the analogy of the oxygen mask in the airplane, putting our own mask on before helping someone else. I cannot tell you the number of people who would drop everything for someone else but not drop everything for themselves. It is essential we take care of ourselves in order to take care of those around us. 

Eliminate shame from our vocabulary

Shame looks like “I shouldn’t be dealing with this,” “What will they think?” “I should be better than this,” and the list goes on. The enemy would want nothing more than to shame you so that you remain isolated, therefore allowing the mental health issue to continue to torment you. No way! There is no shame in admitting weakness, if we can grasp this concept as leaders, think of the ripple effect of transparency and authenticity that will result. 

The battle is truly the combination of the clinical and spiritual. One without the other can be harmful in certain situations. It is so important that you lean into both. Don’t be afraid to ask the Holy Spirit and a counselor, psychiatrist, or psychologist, the combination could be just what you need.