The Lutheran asked, "How healthy are our pastors?" in a report on the ELCA Ministerial Health and Wellness 2002 study (September 2002, page 42). One pastor appreciated the article but commented: "I saw no statistic on the percentage of clergy taking mood-altering drugs (Zoloft, Prozac, etc.). From my circle of colleagues, the percentage is alarming. And growing."
We checked with Gwen Halaas, the physician who directs the ELCA Ministerial Health and Wellness project. One in six ELCA rostered leaders reported a problem with depression in a recent survey, she said. About twice as many woman as men reported such problems, the same as for the general population.
Five percent of prescriptions paid through the ELCA Board of Pensions for rostered leaders and their families are for anti-depressant medications, Halaas added. This accounts for 9 percent ($3 million) of the total cost of prescriptions.
"Mental health problems including chemical dependency are the leading cause of disability in the ELCA health plan, accounting for one-third of the 300 [rostered ministers on disability]," she said. Despite studies suggesting a stable rate of depression in the general population, the ELCA health plan shows more clinic visits and prescriptions to treat depression.
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