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Self Care

Holding Hands

Like others in the caring professions, clergy can experience anxiety, stress and depression as a result of their job.

Some clergy may benefit from professional counselling support, particularly following suicide by a member of the congregation.

It is essential that churches recognise the huge demands on their clergy in their pastoral care, from dealing with emotional distress through mental health problems to supporting families bereaved by suicide. In fact, stress awareness and management would be a useful part of training for ministry and a helpful part of continuing professional development and pastoral support.

It is important that you are aware of and take care of your own mental health, and that you seek support if you feel you are not coping.

Early Warning Signs

There are some early warning signs that may indicate mental ill-health or a mental health problem:

  • mood swings or a consistently lower mood

  • lack of care for personal appearance or personal responsibilities

  • increased use of alcohol or other drugs

  • talking about not wanting to live

  • a loss of interest in doing things you previously enjoyed;

  • withdrawing from social activities or spending less time with family and friends

  • disturbed sleep, perhaps not getting enough sleep or sleeping too much

  • eating less than normal or overeating, perhaps losing or gaining weight

  • being more irritable, over-sensitive or aggressive

  • having difficulty following a conversation, remembering things or concentrating

  • experiencing recurrent physical symptoms such as aches and pains or unexplained illnesses

  • a drop in work performance

  • doing things that don’t make sense to others

  • hearing or seeing things that no-one else can hear or see.

Symptoms of Depression

Symptoms Of Depression

If a person is clinically depressed, they would have at least two of the following symptoms for at least two weeks:

  • an unusually sad mood that does not go away;

  • loss of enjoyment and interest in activities that used to be enjoyable;

  • tiredness and lack of energy.

In addition, people who are depressed can have a range of other symptoms such as:

  • loss of confidence in themselves or poor self-esteem;

  • feeling guilty when they are not really at fault;

  • wishing they were dead;

  • difficulty making decisions and concentrating;

  • moving more slowly or becoming agitated and unable to settle;

  • having difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much;

  • loss of interest in food or eating more than usual, leading to weight loss or weight gain. 

Not every person who has depression will have all of these symptoms.
Depending on the number and severity of symptoms, a depressive episode may be specified as mild, moderate or severe.

Four of the symptoms for at least two weeks.

Six of the symptoms for at least two weeks.


Eight of the symptoms for at least two weeks.

If you feel that you may have depression it is important that you make an appointment with your GP as soon as possible. The sooner the illness is diagnosed and treated the better the outcome.

Suicidal Feelings

Suicidal Feelings

If you are having suicidal thoughts there are organisations who will help you. Lifeline is a telephone help and counselling service for anyone in distress or despair. It is available 24/7 and is free from mobile phones. Trained counsellors, experienced in issues such as depression, self-harm and suicide will listen to you and give you confidential help and support.

They can give you immediate support, offer you a face-to face appointment, or signpost you to other services in your area.

What if I am feeling suicidal now?


  • Keep yourself safe – talk to someone!

  • Call Lifeline on 0808 808 8000

  • Talk to a friend or family member

  • Go to somewhere you’ll feel safe, be with other people

  • See your doctor

  • Call the out-of-hours GP service

  • Go to the A&E department

  • Call emergency services on 999

There are things you can do to keep yourself safe: 

  • Seek help early/talk to someone.

  • Postpone any decision to end your life – many people find if they postpone big decisions for just 24 hours things improve, they feel better able to cope and they find the support they need.

  • Avoid being alone (especially at night)- stay with a family member or a friend or have someone stay with you until your thoughts of suicide decrease.

  • Develop a safety plan – come up with a plan that you can put into action at any time, for example to have a friend or family member agree that you will call them when you are feeling overwhelmed or distressed.

  • Avoid drugs and alcohol when you are feeling down – alcohol and many drugs are depressants and can make you feel worse, they don’t help solve problems and can make you do things you wouldn’t normally do.

  • See your local doctor or a specialist to discuss support or treatment – discuss your suicidal thoughts with your doctor, talk about ways to keep yourself safe. Ask your GP or Lifeline about help for suicidal thoughts.

  • Set yourself small goals to help you to move forward and feel in control.

  • Set goals even on an hour-by-hour or day-by-day basis – write them down and cross them off as you achieve them.

Don’t try to deal with this alone; suicidal thoughts are difficult enough without ‘going it alone’.


There are a lot of people in your family, church and community who will listen to you and will want to help you.  Remember, the vast majority of people with depression recover completely.

Steps to Emotional Well-being

Steps To Emotional Wellbeing

There are many steps you can take to protect and improve your emotional wellbeing. These include:


  • Keep Physically Active

  • Eat well

  • If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation only

  • Value yourself and care for others

  • Connect with the people around you 

  • Talk about our feelings with friends, family members or your doctor

  • Keep in touch with friends and loved ones. 

  • Learn a new skill

  • Do something creative

  • Take a break

  • Be more aware of the present moment, your feelings and thoughts, your body and the world around you. 

  • Ask for help

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