Mental Health of Clergy

Two-thirds of the Anglican stipendiary clergy replying to a survey by Morgan Lewis Consultants were keen to see guaranteed confidential support for the clergy for mental health problems and difficulties with emotional well-being and stress. This need came well ahead of their other health priorities such as sponsorship of a group clergy insurance scheme (15%) and an annual ‘MOT’ for clergy (10%).

The study was commissioned by St Luke’s Healthcare for the Clergy, the charity formed following the closure and sale in 2009 of St Luke’s Hospital for the Clergy (established by Canon Henry Cooper in 1892), which had run into financial difficulties. The research was designed to inform the charity’s future mission and strategy through a better understanding of the health needs of contemporary clergy.

The consultants sent 18,000 letters to active and retired Anglican clergy in November 2009 and received replies from 630 (a mere 3.5%). 510 came from stipendiary clergy and 110 from the retired. It seems probable that respondents were disproportionately former patients or otherwise aware of the hospital and thus may not constitute a statistically representative sample of all Anglican clergy.

Retired clergy had a different set of health desiderata to serving incumbents, principally financial help towards dental, optical or audiological treatment (30%), private insurance to be used in the event that the NHS could not deliver (25%), and assistance with the problems of old age such as Alzheimer’s disease (20%).

Church of England dioceses were also consulted and confirmed the challenges to the clergy of stress, anxiety and more serious mental health issues, which accounted for about one-third of all clerical sickness according to diocesan and national data. Mental health and stress-related conditions were identified by two-fifths of dioceses as the healthcare area in most demand by clergy.

A brief summary of the survey appeared on page 7 of the Church Times for 27 May 2011. Enquiries, either about the research or the charity’s future plans, should be addressed to the General Manager, St Luke’s Healthcare for the Clergy, Room 201, Church House, 27 Great Smith Street, London, SW1P 3AZ, telephone 020 7898 1700.

More generally, an extensive academic literature has emerged during the past quarter-century relating to the psychological health of the clergy. Some of the major investigations can be located through the BRIN source database by searching under key terms such as ‘stress’, ‘burnout’, ‘well-being’ and so forth.

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