A new study by Baylor University psychologists has revealed that church congregation ignores the request of families with mental illness seeking help.
They found that mental illness of a family member destroys the family’s connection with the religious community, leading many affected families to leave the church and their faith behind.
It shows that while families with a member, who has mental illness have less involvement in faith practices, they would like their congregation to provide assistance with those issues, but the rest of the church community seemed to overlook their need entirely.
In fact, the study found that while help from the church, with depression and mental illness, was the second priority of families with mental illness, it ranked 42nd on the list of requests from families that did not have a family member with mental illness.
“The difference in response is staggering, especially given the picture of distress painted by the data: families with mental illness reported twice as many problems and tended to ask for assistance with more immediate or crisis needs compared to other families,” said study co-author Matthew Stanford, professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor.
“The data give the impression that mental illness, while prevalent within a congregation, is also nearly invisible,” he said.
“Families with mental illness stand to benefit from their involvement within a congregation, but our findings suggest that faith communities fail to adequately engage these families because they lack awareness of the issues and understanding of the important ways they can help,” said study co-author Diana Garland, dean of Baylor’s School of Social Work.
The study appeared online in the journal Mental Health, Religion and Culture.