Pastors aren’t immune to the rising suicide rates. More than half of pastors have counseled people who were later diagnosed with a mental illness (59 percent), and about a quarter say they’ve experienced some type of mental illness themselves (23 percent). According to LifeWay, 12 percent have been diagnosed with a mental health condition.
Chuck Hannaford, a clinical psychologist who consults for the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), said he believes the rate of pastor suicides has increased during his 30 years of practice. And he expects the number will continue to rise.
“Being a pastor is a dangerous job,” he said. “Especially in certain evangelical circles, where you have more of a fundamentalist orientation theologically, you find pastors who will reduce their depression or their negative thought processes to strictly spiritual problems.”
Indeed, a 2013 LifeWay survey found that 48 percent of self-identified evangelical, fundamentalist, or born-again Christians believe prayer and Bible study alone can overcome mental illness.
I wish I was surprised by the growth in suicides of pastors, but unfortunately that last line tells us everything we need to know. Too many believers are convinced that mental illness is a problem of faith instead of health, and they are being led by pastors in that believe.
It’s also a belief that is costing people their lives. It needs to stop.