Depression, Stigma, and Clergy Families
WARNING THIS IS A BIT OF A RANT. SO IF YOU NEED SOMETHING GENTLER TO READ I WON’T BE OFFENDED.
I am not even sure how to start this post – I am so full of anger, disappointment, despair and sorrow.
The dear one is a clergy person. He loves being a priest, sharing the good news, celebrating the sacraments, being with people on their faith and life journeys. Almost two years ago he was placed on medical leave by his bishop. This was not a mutual decision, this was a decision that was handed to him, to us. The dear one had coped with and managed his depression with a lot of support from his family and medical team for almost 15 years before being placed on medical leave. Now here we are stuck.
Every parish that he has applied to has not even put him on the short list for an interview. Every bishop he has spoken to has been discouraging of him applying for parishes. As soon as they see the words ‘medical leave’ or ‘depression’ they put his application at the bottom of the pile.
Here comes the rant part. This is STIGMA pure and simple.
The bishops in our church are not being honest about how many clergy regularly cope with depression or about how many of them are dealing with depression on a daily basis. Just by the grace of God they are not in the situation that we are in. At the moment I am not even sure that it is grace. In fact I think it has more to do with lying and subterfuge and fear than it does with grace.
No one is being honest with the dear one about why he cannot get past the front door and at least get asked to interview for a parish. No one will come out and say it is because your depression got out of control and you burned out. They won’t say that because that would put them into legal difficulties.
There are also no resources within the church to help clergy and their families in this situation. You are told you are on your own. Keep applying for parishes and hopefully a parish will be willing to take you on. There is no encouragement there at all.
What I want to know is where the gospel in all of this? Where is the love of God in all of this? Is it right to abandon a good priest and his family because he has been honest about his mental health situation?
We are trying to figure out what is next for us. My job is ending soon. The future is seeming bleak at the moment. I never thought that in our middle years we would be facing such an emotional, financial, and mental crisis.
I wish that I could end this with a positive note but I cannot at this time. My heart just can’t find a positive place to be at the moment.