the shape of leadership

Raise Your Mental Health Awareness

Six types of conditions ministers should know about

Influence Magazine on May 10, 2018

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. During any given year, about 1 in 5 American adults will experience mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. That means there are likely individuals in your congregation who are dealing with a mental health condition — whether their own or of a close family member.

The first step in meeting their needs is recognizing the problem. As a minister, you may feel your job is simply to pray for healing. It’s true that God is able to heal any and all illnesses, including ones of the mind. Yet He often works through the care of others to accomplish His purposes.

Meaning that in addition to offering prayer, you may need to refer someone to a specialist for treatment.

Below are six types of mental health issues you may encounter as a pastor.

Anxiety Disorders

Everyone worries about things from time to time. A disorder means the anxiety disrupts normal routines or relationships. Forms of anxiety disorder include specific phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Treatment may include counseling, medication, or a combination of the two.


Some people may lightheartedly claim to have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, but it’s really no laughing matter. Sufferers find it almost impossible to focus their thoughts for any length of time. In school, their grades may suffer. On the job, their work can decline. While some medications may help, that’s not always the case.

During any given year, about 1 in 5 American adults will experience mental illness.

Eating Disorders

How a person relates to food can be a function of a mental disorder. Individuals with eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia, go to extremes regarding how and when they eat. Eating disorders most often affect young females. Treatment can be difficult, with hospitalization necessary in many cases.

Mood Disorders

Alternating between depression or mania, sufferers of mood disorders generally cannot control their urges. They respond in rash ways and may even end up trying to commit self-harm. The most common is bipolar disorder. Mood disorders are often the result of imbalances in chemicals within the brain and can be regulated with medication, to some degree.

Personality Disorders

How people perceive others affects how they relate to them. If those perceptions are damaged, it can interfere with decision making and personal interactions. Again, the problem is not minor but a major disruption of day-to-day life. Types of personality disorders include narcissism, paranoia or antisocial personality disorder.

Psychotic Disorders

Schizophrenia may be the most disruptive of all mental health issues. Sufferers struggle to distinguish between reality and what exists only in their own mind. A person’s perception and interaction with reality can become so negatively affected that a normal daily life is unattainable.

The common factor in all of these disorders is that they are debilitating. Most people feel blue once in a while or experience a mood swing. But true mental health issues interfere with people’s lives in drastic ways.

It’s important for church leaders to be aware of these issues as they minister to people with a variety of life challenges. Take the time to learn more about mental illness, encourage people to seek the help they need, and provide compassion and support for families struggling with these and other mental health concerns.


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