Vaidyanathan said he found it interesting that many church leaders interviewed said they don’t feel like they’re on the front lines in mental health care even though research has shown in the past that church members often seek help for mental health problems from those leaders.
A total of 1,201 surveys were returned with 73 percent done in paper form and 27 percent done online. The average age of the respondents was 67, and many were female. More than 60 percent were white with just 29 percent being Hispanic. The study included congregations from Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Catholic, and African American Baptist churches.
The survey attempted to measure respondents’ physical and mental health by asking questions about such things as sleep habits and stress experienced in the previous year.
The research found that “[w]hile few respondents report problematic mental health concerns, they do not feel discouraged from seeking help and report a welcoming atmosphere whereby they feel comfortable seeking help from church leaders for their problems.”
Vaidyanathan continues to work to expand the study on a national basis from his new position in the nation’s capital. Meanwhile, Mark Carmona, former CEO of Haven for Hope and former executive director of the Center for Health Care Services in San Antonio, has agreed to lead Phase 2 of the study here.
Carmona will be working with congregations that want to continue to be involved. He says he will be asking them to identify a need they have based on what they’ve learned from this project. “What do they want to start adopting? What do they want to start doing in their churches?” said Carmona. “Our goal is to help them take what they’ve learned from this study to inform a new approach or tool, one that ultimately many more congregations could adopt.”