Churches ignoring mental illness, study says

by | Jun. 24, 2011

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When people have mental illness they often turn to their church for help. But instead of getting help, a new study by Baylor University psychologists has found churches are more likely to overlook the need.

A 1998 Deseret News story by Marjorie Cortez told a similar story. Rev. Steven Waterhouse, pastor of Westcliff Bible Church in Amarillo, Texas, sought help for his brother who had schizophrenia. Instead of support there was avoidance. "A lot of clergy don't know how to help," Waterhouse said. "If they knew how to help, they'd help."

Baylor's new study surveyed nearly 6,000 people in 24 churches representing four Protestant denominations. The results showed mental illness in 27 percent of families. Those families had twice the number of stress-inducing problems — financial troubles, balancing family and work, etc. — as other families. The study analyzed desires for assistance and found that getting help with mental illness was a priority for those families affected by it, but it was virtually ignored by everybody else in the churches.

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