Melinda Moore is a clinical psychologist and assistant professor in the department of psychology at Eastern Kentucky University. The Rev. Glen Bloomstrom is a retired military chaplain who is the director of faith engagement at LivingWorks. Both serve on the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention’s Faith Communities Task Force.
We’ve become used to scenes of people applauding the workers who are on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis. Doctors and nurses leaving their shifts are often greeted by small crowds thanking them for their dedication. We know the toll this disease is taking on them—physically, emotionally and mentally—and we want them to know we have their backs.
There’s another group that needs our attention too—and that’s our faith leaders. They continue to play a critical role in communities across the country—providing connectedness, fostering resiliency, and offering hope to those whose lives have been disrupted during this time. And, like other front line workers, they are doing this all while struggling with their own stresses and uncertainties as a result of the pandemic.
Priests and ministers, rabbis and imams are all experiencing the same financial strain, job loss and social isolation as the rest of us. And while we know these are all risk factors for suicide, there is no available research to indicate that this pandemic will lead to an increase in suicide rates in this country. However, faith leaders, like millions of other Americans, are already reporting the negative impact this pandemic is having on their mental health.
Our faith leaders pour their hearts and souls into their congregations and, in so doing, often find themselves physically and emotionally exhausted and feeling like they aren’t doing enough. Like other caregivers, they shoulder the burden and pain of their congregants and frequently ignore their own needs as a result.
As Martin Frazer, retired senior minister of Madison Hills Christian Church in Richmond, Kentucky, recently shared, “Honestly, in over 36 years of ministry, I can only count a handful of times when someone came up to me and said, ‘How are you doing? Are you okay?’ That is as much our fault because we are constantly projecting confidence and strength.”
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Source: Religion News Service