*The following is excerpted from an online article from MedicalXpress.
Many mental health disorders first surface during adolescence, and college and youth pastors are in a good position to offer help or steer youths elsewhere to find it. But many of those pastors feel ill-prepared to recognize and treat mental illness, according to a Baylor University study.
The study—"Adolescent mental health: the role of youth and college pastors"—is published in the journal Mental Health, Religion & Culture.
Study respondents were 94 youth and college pastors representing churches ranging in size from 45 to 8,000 members. Churches were located in Abilene, Austin, College Station, Dallas-Fort Worth area, Houston, Lubbock, Midland, San Antonio, Temple-Killeen area and Waco.
The survey showed that:
- 50 percent said they had received training related to mental illness, but only 26 percent reported they felt qualified to work with young people dealing with significant mental health issues.
- 78.7 percent had worked with one to 10 adolescents a year whom they knew or thought had mental health issues.
- 76 percent had referred an adolescent congregant to a Christian counselor, a psychologist or a psychiatrist, but pastors who made referrals were most likely to do so to a Christian counselor.
Youth pastors ranked depression as the most prevalent mental health issue they have seen among youths, followed by pornography, grief/bereavement, anxiety, aggression/anger, sexual behavior, alcohol/drug abuse, ADHD, emotional abuse, eating disorders, stress from having a family member with a mental health issue, domestic or spousal abuse, juvenile delinquency, gender identity, sexual assault/abuse and physical abuse.
The study showed that youth and college pastors' most common method of intervention was to meet with the adolescent and refer the individual to a mental health professional. While many of the pastors described using biblical counseling methods, some counseled primarily with psychological concepts, using such methods as talking through coping skills or role-playing.
The sample of youth pastors showed they believe that psychological well-being affects spiritual development. But they lacked training and confidence to interact with the mental health system, and some tensions and conflicts exist between pastors and mental health professionals.