The Religious Leaders on the Front Lines of Mental Health

07/22/2021  |  

by Clare Ansberry, Wall Street Journal, July 22, 2021

Priests, pastors, rabbis, imams and deacons have witnessed waves of anxiety, depression, fear and grief. People who never sought help before reached out needing more than spiritual support and pastoral care. In response, some churches created mental-health ministries, hired clinical social workers and held town halls staffed by professionals.

Ed Shoener, a deacon at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Scranton, Pa., and a founding member of the Association of Catholic Mental Health Ministers, found that people suffering from depression and anxiety were becoming accustomed to the isolation.

The association, which has about 200 mental-health ministers in about 25 of the church’s 194 dioceses nationwide, encourages people to seek professional help if needed. Most have direct mental-illness experience with a family member. Mr. Shoener’s daughter, Katie, suffered from bipolar disorder and died by suicide in 2016.