I attended a "wellness" event recently; it was sponsored by our Methodist Conference as a part of their strategy to encourage self-care among clergy. By attending certain events, having an annual physical, and spending some time with a "fitness coach" we are able to see a reduction in our monthly health insurance rate. But beyond the financial benefit is the hope that healthier clergy will be a more effective clergy! Overall I've found the experience to be helpful and I've heard that many organizations are now offering these types of programs. It made me wonder, however, why preventative programs aren't offered to address one's mental health?
I know that in some situations mental health screening is provided. But for the most part, this aspect of our overall health is neglected. I will give you one example: Over the past three years I've attended three events, sponsored by the United Methodist Church, to help clergy plan and prepare for retirement. The focus of these events, however, was almost entirely on financial readiness. What a shock when I recently attended a workshop on suicide to learn that one of the groups at greatest risk for suicide is white men who have recently retired! At no time in the retirement workshops was the issue of mental health or emotional adjustment even mentioned. My conclusion is that I need to accept responsibility to "take stock" of my mental (and spiritual) health as I transition into a new season of life.
How is it with your soul? That is one of the questions that has been used to discern spiritual wellness for centuries. But "soul wellness" is more than just "spiritual wellness." Soul wellness involves both the relational and emotional components of our life. So, working regularly with a spiritual guide or visiting with, at least occasionally, a mental health counselor is really a good idea. How foolish we would be to neglect our annual physical. How foolish we would be not to see a dentist or eye doctor on a regular basis. How foolish as well to disregard our emotional and spiritual well-being.
So I encourage all of us (myself included) to stay in shape! In addition to regular exercise and a healthy diet; an annual physical and occasional check-in with a spiritual guide and mental health professional only makes sense..
Dr. Allen Schneider is a United Methodist pastor and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist presently serving the Sapulpa and greater Tulsa communities.