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Mental Health

Religious Leaders Can Help Followers Address Mental Health

— February 13, 2023

Priests, pastors, imams and other religious leaders can help ease mental health struggles.

A new study published in the Journal of Religion and Health suggests that religious leaders may play a significant role in addressing mental health needs within their communities. The study, which surveyed over 2,000 adults across the United States, found that individuals who reported having a strong relationship with their religious leader were more likely to seek help for mental health concerns. This includes being referred to therapy professionals by the clergy or provided with information about other resources within the community.

The study’s findings indicate that religious leaders can play a crucial role in creating a more open and accepting culture around mental health. By educating members of their congregation about the importance of mental and emotional well-being, they can help to dispel myths and misunderstandings that contribute to the stigma surrounding psychological illness.

Creating a space where congregation members can share openly allows religious leaders to foster a more welcoming environment in general, especially for those who are struggling. Overall, the study highlights the potential for religious leaders to play a significant role in addressing these needs within their communities and emphasizes the importance of further research to explore this relationship.

Religious Leaders Can Help Followers Address Mental Health
Photo by MART Production from Pexels

According to Reverend John Baggett sees it, the Bible can play a significant role when it comes promoting the need to address mental health. He said, “The Bible contains great spiritual wisdom that is thousands of years old that comes from people like us, who experienced the difficulties and challenges in life. It teaches, especially through the teachings of Jesus, to have compassion toward persons who are mentally disabled, to all people who are disabled.”

Bagget has a personal connection to this message. His son was diagnosed with schizophrenia. The Reverend revealed, “I had to realize that the son that I had before was gone. The son I had after that period, with the onset of schizophrenia, was a very different son. I had to learn to love the new son I had. The whole experience was one of loss and grief. I struggled with the mental health problem on how to cope with having a son with mental illness in my family.”

The leader hopes that by acknowledging the mental health struggles that he and his family have faced, he will encourage others to do the same.

“Jesus lived in a time when all disabilities, blindness, lameness, those with skin diseases, epilepsy, and what we today would call psychoses, were all stigmatized by the religious leaders and ostracized by everyone,” Baggett said. “But then Jesus comes on the scene and his relationship with people with disabilities is not one of avoidance, discrimination, condemnation or fear. It is, in a word, ‘compassion.’”

It should be noted that the study has some limitations, such as the self-reported nature of the data and the fact that it only surveyed adults in the United States. Religious communities generally include people of all ages, including children and teens. Self-reported data can be viewed as highly subjective. Further research is needed to validate these findings and to examine the role of religious leaders in addressing mental health needs in different cultural and religious contexts.


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How Imams Can Destigmatize Mental Health Care Among Muslims 

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