Mental Health and Vicars

Results from a survey that has recently been published state that more needs to be done concerning the mental health and wellbeing of clergy.

BRIN UK Morgan Lewis Consultants carried out the survey with sponsorship from St Luke’s Healthcare for the Clergy to see what the feeling was amongst a cross section of vicars, both active and retired.

Unfortunately, only just over 3% of the 18,000 clergymen replied. Here is the press release from the findings:

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.

Even though this report isn’t really accurate considering the connections to the hospital and suchlike, it does highlight the fact that being a vicar is a stressful job.

I guess many people see it as a ‘career’ when in fact it is a vocation. It’s not just standing in a silly dress on a Sunday, saying a few words and then drinking tea and eating cake in the vicarage on Sunday afternoons. It’s about visiting the sick, helping the bereaved, lending an ear, a hand etc. It’s about people. It’s about shepherding people. It’s about facilitating ways for people’s spiritual needs to be met.

It’s a hard vocation. And it’s no wonder that so many vicars get burn out. There does need to be more support for them.

Dean Roberts

Dean is a Minister in the Anglican Church. Currently he is Curate in the parishes of Bedwas, Machen, Michaelston-y-Fedw and Rudry in South Wales. He was born and bred in Wales, is married to Megan, and has two dogs called Taliesin and Melyn, and two cats named Sinsir and Hâf. He graduated from Cardiff University with a BA Hons. in Theology & Religious Studies, and has studied for an MA in Theology, Ministry & Mission at Trinity College Bristol. He also holds a Cert.RSCM from the Royal School of Church Music. He loves playing music, walking, reading, blogging and horse riding as well as going to the cinema and theatre. Read More @

  • Thanks, DeanRoberts, though I should clarify that BRIN didn’t carry out the survey itself – it was conducted by Morgan Lewis Consultants and sponsored by St Luke’s Healthcare for the Clergy, as described in the original post…

    • My apologies, I did know this but must have forgotten to edit the post! Keep the surveys coming… they’re fascinating! Thanks for commenting the blog!

  • Becca

    My diocese at home are currently raising a great deal of money to help retired/ill clergy 🙂

    • Good on them Becca! They need it!! 🙂