In December, Christians in Orlando and around the nation mourned the death of Pastor Isaac Hunter, who committed suicide after issues in his life became too much for him to bear. Megachurch Pastor Rick Warren and his wife Kay reached out to Hunter’s family and church community, themselves struggling with the loss of their own son, Matthew, who took his life after battling mental illness for years. These deaths have brought more attention to mental illness in the church in recent months, as both pastors and bloggers have begun discussing the topic more online and from the pulpit.

Thom Rainer is one such blogger, speaking to these suffering pastors in a recent blog post. In it, he highlighting a few of the issues that may cause depression or exacerbate it—issues pastors are particularly vulnerable to. They are:

  • Spiritual warfare
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Greater platforms for critics
  • Failure to take time away from the church or place of ministry
  • Marriage and family problems
  • Financial strains
  • The problem of comparison

Rainer encourages pastors who are dealing with any of these issues to not be ashamed to get help. "You are not alone... I recently cited a study that shows depression among pastors to be higher than that of the general public. Pastors should not think they are outliers."

One such pastor is Perry Noble of NewSpring Church, who has bravely blogged about his struggle with anxiety and championed the benefits of medication for his mental health. In his post, Should Christians Take Medication for Mental Illness?, Noble writes, “[A]s someone who has been on both sides of the issue I want to speak definitively on this by saying that it is NOT a sign of weakness to admit your need for medication in dealing with these issues; in fact, in many cases it may actually be a sign of strength…I can honestly say that making the decision to swallow my pride and accept the common grace God has provided through medicine has made me a better husband, father and friend.”  

Perry’s thoughts echo those of Ed Stetzer, president of Nashville-based LifeWay Research, who after Matthew Warren’s death, wrote, "We need to stop hiding mental illness… People who become a Christian and have a broken leg will still have a broken leg," he said. "We tend to think that Jesus fixes what is in our heads, and medicine fixes what is in our body. Sometimes what is in our heads needs medicine."

What do you think? Are pastors particularly prone to depression and anxiety? Do you think the Church should talk more about these issues? 

Kelly Givens is the editor of iBelieve.com.

Publication Date: February 27, 2014.