Study: Black and Latino Churchgoers Turning to Pastors for Mental Health Services

Study: Black and Latino Churchgoers Turning to Pastors for Mental Health Services

New studies find that Black and Latino churchgoers are going to their pastors for mental health services, so much so they’re starting to overwhelm the clergy.

The newly released study from Rice University, “Where Would You Go? Race, Religion, and the Limits of Pastor Mental Health Care in Black and Latino Congregations,” features interviews with Black and Latino Christians in Houston, Texas, about how they make decisions on where to seek mental health care.

The research showed Black congregants seeking out mental health counsel from pastors over medical professionals because of the stigma surrounding mental health in the Black community. Latinos also seek mental health counsel from their pastors, but more so because of the stigma within their church.

However, the study found that pastors are feeling ill-equipped by the demands due to not having enough time, resources, or sufficient social networks to best serve their churchgoers.

“Regardless of whether they want to be or not, pastors are on the front lines of this mental health crisis,” Dan Bolger, the author of the study, said.

“People in religious communities see clergy as uniquely able to discern and handle these types of issues. The medical community, including the mental health community and other types of providers, can help with these types of issues by creating networks with pastors and working with local religious communities.”

Bolger is encouraging mental health and medical providers to help the church community by working with pastors to create networks for resources, Religion News reported.

“A persistent theme across the clergy members we talked to was that there’s a level of need for mental health care they’re just unable to meet,” Bolger said. “Maybe it was less about the types of issues they were seeing, but more the sheer number of people who needed that type of assistance.

“If pastors feel better equipped to address issues presented by their congregants, our findings indicate it will lead to better outcomes and better care,” he said.