A qualitative study of mental health help-seeking among Catholic priests

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  See discussions, stats, and author profiles for this publication at: A qualitative study of mental health help-seeking among Catholic priests  Article   in  Mental Health Religion & Culture · March 2014 DOI: 10.1080/13674676.2014.910759 CITATIONS 10 READS 257 6 authors , including: Some of the authors of this publication are also working on these related projects: All In: Breaking Barriers to Discerning the Priesthood   View projectSubstance Use Disorder Treatment   View projectAnthony IsaccoChatham University 42   PUBLICATIONS   467   CITATIONS   SEE PROFILE Ethan SahkerKyoto University 26   PUBLICATIONS   127   CITATIONS   SEE PROFILE Deanna HamiltonChatham University 6   PUBLICATIONS   27   CITATIONS   SEE PROFILE Mary Beth MannarinoChatham University 6   PUBLICATIONS   18   CITATIONS   SEE PROFILE All content following this page was uploaded by Anthony Isacco on 03 August 2018. The user has requested enhancement of the downloaded file.  This article was downloaded by: [University of Iowa Libraries], [Ethan Sahker]On: 09 May 2014, At: 07:16Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK Mental Health, Religion & Culture Publication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information: A qualitative study of mental healthhelp-seeking among Catholic priests Anthony Isacco a , Ethan Sahker a , Deanna Hamilton a , Mary BethMannarino a , Wonjin Sim a  & Meredith St Jean aa  Graduate Psychology Programs, Chatham University, Pittsburgh,PA, USAPublished online: 06 May 2014. To cite this article:  Anthony Isacco, Ethan Sahker, Deanna Hamilton, Mary Beth Mannarino, WonjinSim & Meredith St Jean (2014): A qualitative study of mental health help-seeking among Catholicpriests, Mental Health, Religion & Culture, DOI: 10.1080/13674676.2014.910759 To link to this article: PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLETaylor & Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (the “Content”) contained in the publications on our platform. However, Taylor & Francis,our agents, and our licensors make no representations or warranties whatsoever as tothe accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose of the Content. Any opinionsand views expressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors,and are not the views of or endorsed by Taylor & Francis. The accuracy of the Contentshould not be relied upon and should be independently verified with primary sourcesof information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable for any losses, actions, claims,proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilities whatsoever orhowsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with, in relation to or arisingout of the use of the Content.This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Anysubstantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing,systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at  A qualitative study of mental health help-seeking among Catholic priests Anthony Isacco*, Ethan Sahker, Deanna Hamilton, Mary Beth Mannarino,Wonjin Sim and Meredith St Jean Graduate Psychology Programs, Chatham University, Pittsburgh, PA, USA (  Received 30 January 2014; accepted 29 March 2014 )Little is known about Catholic priests ’  mental health help-seeking. Using consensualqualitative research, this study examined 15 Catholic priests ’  narratives about help-seekingattitudes, help-seeking behaviours, and offers advice for mental health professionalsregarding priest health. Analysis revealed that all 15 priests reported positive attitudes about mental health help-seeking because counselling helped to deal with and heal problems, provided a different, unbiased perspective and allowed for spiritual growth. The majority of  participants (9/15; 60%) reported that they have sought help through counselling for variousreasons, such as depression and stress. Barriers to help-seeking entailed perceiving no needto seek help, stigma, and concerns about counsellor competence. Participants suggested that mental health professionals understand the importance of prayer to priests, the uniquestressors of the priestly role, and the impact of contextual factors (e.g., frequent transfersand sexual abuse scandal) on their health. Implications for future research and clinical practice are discussed. Keywords:  Catholic priests; clergy; help-seeking; consensual qualitative research The Roman Catholic Church in the USA has seen a decline in diocesan priests from 58,632 in1965 to 38,964 in 2012 (Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate [CARA], 2012).During that time, the self-identi 󿬁 ed Catholic population has risen from 48.5 to 78.2 million inthe USA (CARA, 2012). Despite fewer Roman Catholic diocesan priests (shortened to “  priests ”  for the remainder of this paper) available to serve in parishes, lay Catholics oftenseek help from priests for a variety of mental, social, familial, and spiritual issues (Kane,2003b). National data from the USA has found that clergy are contacted for help from individualswith a mental disorder at higher proportions than psychiatrists and general medical doctors(Wang, Berglund, & Kessler, 2003). The priestly role is considered a  “ calling   from God ”  anda  “ 24/7 ”  vocation , rather than a time-speci 󿬁 c job, with a focus on meaningfulness, theologicalexploration, and being available to serve others (Dik & Duffy, 2009; Raj & Dean, 2005). In a study with a related sample,  󿬁 ndings indicated that Methodist clergy lost focus of their ownneeds as they focused on helping others (Doolittle, 2007). Given the declining numbers andnature of the priestly role, it is not surprising that research has found evidence of burnout,depression, loneliness, and stress among priests, which indicates an increased need for mentalhealth services for priests (Knox, Virginia, Thull, & Lombardo, 2005; Zickar, Balzer, Aziz, & © 2014 Taylor & Francis *Corresponding author. Email:  Mental Health, Religion & Culture , 2014    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   U  n   i  v  e  r  s   i   t  y  o   f   I  o  w  a   L   i   b  r  a  r   i  e  s   ] ,   [   E   t   h  a  n   S  a   h   k  e  r   ]  a   t   0   7  :   1   6   0   9   M  a  y   2   0   1   4  Wryobeck, 2008). However, research has not kept pace with unearthing priests ’  help-seeking atti-tudes, preferences, or behaviours, particularly for problems beyond the sexual abuse crisis. Theextant literature can bene 󿬁 t from asking priests about their perceptions and experiences relatedto seeking mental health help, which may help mental health professionals to identify and elim-inate barriers to care and contribute to positive treatment outcomes. Therefore, the purpose of thisexploratory study is to better understand mental health help-seeking attitudes and behavioursamong a sample of Roman Catholic diocesan priests. Mental health help-seeking among priests Increased attention has been given to examining men ’ s help-seeking and developing interventionsthat appeal to male populations (Addis & Mahalik, 2003). The extant literature on men ’ s help-seeking has argued for investigating speci 󿬁 c populations of men with the aim of understandingthe unique contexts that affect diverse samples of men ’ s help-seeking (Ward & Besson, 2012).This study ’ s examination of priests ’  help-seeking is grounded within the empirical literatureabout men and help-seeking.The research on priests ’  mental health help-seeking is equivocal. Priests have identi 󿬁 ed andaccessed several sources of support, such as spiritual directors, family, friends, fellow priests, and parishioners for vocational discernment, role stress, and discussion of sensitive topics, such assexuality (Gregoire & Jungers, 2004; Hankle, 2010; Zickar et al., 2008). According to a recent  study by Rossetti (2011), 46.3% ( n =1148) of a national sample of Catholic priests reportedthat they voluntarily sought counselling during their priesthood. Rossetti concluded that priestsare not hesitant to seek mental health services when a need arises and possess the  “ willingnessand humility ”  to seek help (p. 62). The study did not identify the speci 󿬁 c needs that served ascatalysts for priests to seek help. Factors that facilitate positive help-seeking among priests arelargely unknown. Practitioners would bene 󿬁 t from understanding the reasons why priests seek counselling and the factors that contribute to positive help-seeking. To address that gap in theresearch, this study asked participants if they ever have sought help from a mental health pro-fessional and what were their reasons for seeking help.Other research indicates that priests may have dif  󿬁 culty in seeking mental health help. Priestsstruggle with recognising when they need support and how to discuss issues such as sexuality, boundaries, and celibacy (Martin, 2007). Most psychological treatment research on priests isfocused on those priests who are perpetrators of child sexual abuse (Haywood, Kravitz, Gross-man, Wasyliw, & Hardy, 1996; McDevitt, 2011; Plante & Daniels, 2004; Ryan, Baerwald, & McGlone, 2008). Little is known about the mental health needs of priests in good-standing,active in ministry, and who did not perpetrate sexual abuse (Lothstein, 2004). Priests may fear stigmatisation and being mislabelled as a paedophile for seeking counselling, which may be anobstacle to help-seeking. Church hierarchy and culture may also serve as barriers to help-seeking. Priests have perceived bishops as contributing to their role stress, implying that  priests may not seek help due to concerns about supervisory oversight (Zickar et al., 2008).Kane (2008) found that priests not accused or charged with child sexual abuse did not feel sup- ported by their supervisors following the sexual abuse scandal. Priests may be reluctant to talk negativelyabout their superiors due to personal career advancement concerns and making disclos-ures that would be deemed detrimental to the Church (Kane, 2008). Other scholars have arguedthat the hierarchy has fostered such an unhealthy culture of silence that it is reasonable toconcludethat priests may view seeking help outside of the church as counter to cultural norms and anti-authoritarian (Frawley-O ’ Dea, 2007). Because of the mixed  󿬁 ndings, this study sought to capita-lise on the strengths of qualitative methodology by asking open-ended questions about mentalhealth help-seeking.2  A. Isacco  et al.    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   U  n   i  v  e  r  s   i   t  y  o   f   I  o  w  a   L   i   b  r  a  r   i  e  s   ] ,   [   E   t   h  a  n   S  a   h   k  e  r   ]  a   t   0   7  :   1   6   0   9   M  a  y   2   0   1   4

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