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Mental Illness “Nearly Invisible” in Church Congregations

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(Sept. 10, 2013) It should come as no surprise to us that a Baylor University study has found church congregations “blind to mental illness.” Most of the world outside the mental health community (and some inside it) is blind to the psychiatric disease. Human nature being what it is, it follows that church congregations would be, too.

invisible-womanBut the Baylor study is a vivid illustration of just how thoroughly the blindness isolates those of us living with a severe mental illness. For example, families with mentally ill loved ones ranked depression and mental illness as their second priority issue for help from the church. Families without mentally ill loved ones ranked the issues 42nd (“Baylor study finds church congregations blind to mental illness,” Baylor University, Sept. 3; study not currently available online).

"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 Dr. Matthew Stanford, professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor, an expert in mental illness and the church. "The data give the impression that mental illness, while prevalent within a congregation, is also nearly invisible."

Caregiver strain is an enormous “hidden” cost of untreated mental illness, this and other studies consistently show. The Treatment Advocacy Center has developed the following resources to help:

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