Where have all the Pastor’s gone ?

Have you ever noticed that no one in church suffers from mental illness ? Three hundred fifty million people worldwide suffer from depression that is five percent of the population of the world. Yet we never hear about it in church. I have been hospitalized six times in my life for depression in all of those times I have only ever had one pastor visit me one time and I have been an active church member every single one of those times.

Where are the Pastors of the world when the most vulnerable need them the most? Do you know the only department in the hospital that the Chaplains do not visit ? The psychiatric emergency unit. They are discouraged from visiting patients there because the patients might ask them hard questions about God and life and death.

Are you a Pastor reading this?

When was  the last time you visited the Mentally Ill ?

Why haven’t you visited the mentally ill?


One word answer is stigma.

You know your own  answer.

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5 thoughts on “Where have all the Pastor’s gone ?”

  1. I appreciate this entry a lot! But I will also say that the reason chaplains do not visit the psychiatric unit is not because the patients will ask us hard questions about life and death…in fact that is a part of a chaplain’s job on any floor of the hospital is to be present to the search for meaning of the patient’s existential experience. The reason chaplains are not (typically) allowed in the psychiatric unit is because even though more and more hospitals are ready to make us part of the health care team, many hospitals believe that we need special training or education to make adequate assessments of patients in those units. It is not because of the department of pastoral care’s refusal to visit those people.

    I am not sure why a pastor from a congregation would not visit you, though. I think in that case that has more to do with the individual than anything else. I agree with you, I think we do need more pastors and clergy visiting those with psychiatric needs. There needs to be a better bridge built between the two fields of religion/spirituality and psychiatry.

    -Janine Santoro

  2. I have two responses to this, Christine. First, I have not been aware of a parishioner in a psychiatric unit in my tenure as a pastor. That’s not to say there hasn’t been someone admitted, but that I’ve never been notified by the hospital staff or the family that there was a need to visit. Second, I have very little training in mental health issues. Visitation – yes, that I can do, and when I know my parishioners are there, I’m in ERs, ICUs, surgical units, rehab, nursing home, even gloved and gowned for those with infection control issues. But I’ve never been asked to go to a psych unit.

  3. Pastor of my church regularly visits parishioners admitted in hospitals and offers prayers. In the Sunday service special prayers are said. But in churches around our Diocese I often hear members complaining that visitation of pastors is very rare and sometimes nil. In many cases they do not have time as they have their own work to do.

  4. HIPAA prevents any staff from divulging protected health information. You may give your denominational preference but staff may be reluctant to call and some institutions require a code to be given (I’ve had people try to get private info over the phone). https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/special-topics/mental-health/index.html
    Penalties are so severe (firing, fines even imprisonment) that nursing no longer routinely calls pastors.
    By being open with your own illness you help others be able to share about theirs. A young pastor is sharing on Facebook which will help.

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