Rick and Kay Warren Take Positive Steps Toward Mental Health Education After Loss of Son

A couple of weeks ago, the 27-year-old son of Pastor Rick Warren and his wife Kay committed suicide. It was especially sad to learn that Matthew Warren had suffered for so long with mental illness. I commended the Warrens for taking him to professionals — something that may have helped prolong his life for an additional ten years.

Matthew Warren

One of the problems in the Christian church is that mental illness is often seen as a sign of weakness, an indication that Satan has latched onto you. Prayer is the cure and professionals are not.

To their credit, the Warrens didn’t take that approach. And they’re not backing away, either.

They currently have a petition up on their church’s website for a noble cause:

Join Kay and I, and the Saddleback Family, in our effort to urge educators, lawmakers, healthcare professionals, and church congregations to raise the awareness and lower the stigma of mental illness… and support the families that deal with mental illness on a daily basis.

They’ve also set up “The Matthew Warren Fund for mental health,” though there’s no indication as to where the donations will go.

I wouldn’t make a donation just yet (call me cynical…) but I signed the petition. This is one instance in which other churches would do well to follow the Warrens’ lead.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/richard.tingley Richard Tingley

    If anything needs an awareness campaign, it is mental health. Most people’s perception of it is just so wrong. Mental health needs to be looked at like cancer of the mind and the research into it needs to be funded accordingly.

    When someone gets cancer and fights back we look at them like warriors. However, when someone is dealing with depression the public tends look at them like they are weak pansy asses.

    That perception will have to change before we can fix the problem.

    Just think about how many problems in today’s society are linked to mental health. Suicide, homelessness and shootings are probably just the tip of the iceberg. All of which could be greatly reduced with effective mental health care and a change in peoples attitude toward it.

    • SeekerLancer

      Very well said.

      My girlfriend suffers from OCD which can create some very awkward and trying social situations and it has caused great difficulty in her holding down a career.

      Very few times has she been shown any empathy for it as people’s reactions tend to be much like how you described for people with depression, “deal with it” or “stop being a sissy.” Most people don’t seem to understand that she simply can’t, that it’s not always just a matter of willpower.

      It ultimately makes whatever situation she’s in worse because people don’t comprehend that a mental illness isn’t something you have voluntarily that you can just ignore when it becomes inconvenient.

      It doesn’t help that the media perception of stuff like OCD is often so stereotypical and silly and often played for laughs nor does it help that most people’s attitudes towards people with mental problems tends to be “you’re crazy” and then avoid that person like the plague (which in some cases has probably helped foster violence like you mentioned). There certainly does need to be more education about and understanding for the mentally ill.

      • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

        Ugh, the “deal with it”s and “get over it”s and “cheer up”s are the worst. I have anxiety issues and hear that crap all the time. Even from family. Now my mom is on a medication that alters her mood dramatically… she actually appologized for ever telling me to just “get over it”. People rarely see how hard it is until they’re strolling in somebody else’s shoes.

  • wahh my son

    mental health does not need more religious influence, especially not from warren. stop enabling him.

    • Charles Honeycutt

      Very nasty of you.

      • wahh muh ad hominem

        I disagree but since you want an insult match rather than to actually engage what I said, go fuck yourself.

        • kevin white

          Really? He wasn’t insulting you. He was pointing out that your post was inflammatory, which it is. Also, if the Warrens are legitimately trying to help bring mental health awareness to the forefront, then let them try instead of sticking to the old “Religion should gtfo away from things” argument. People’s ideologies can change, even if it’s ever so slightly, after a deep emotional period like the Warrens just faced.

          Granted, i’m nowhere near a fan of Rick Warren, or Religion in general, but sometimes you have to let things play out before you condemn someone for past actions.

          Just sayin’.

          • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

            flame away, but i have to agree with the concept that religion and mental health medicine do not need to be mixed together. i’m sorry, but it’s hard for me to trust people like the Warrens, even in the midst of this tragedy. far too many rich people find philanthropy after a tragic loss, but use it as an excuse to fund causes they already believe in, that are based on bunk and con.

            a science based, neurochemistry influenced mental health medical approach is what is needed. we’ll see if the Warren money supports anything like that. i won’t hold my breath. far too much psychology is already overly influenced by woo and religious ideology; it would be easy for them to fund more of the same, to the detriment of people in need of real help and psychiatry.

            • Tweekus

              Not going to flame you at all. I see where you’re coming from, and i agree. However, something that i’ve seen, which troubles me, is the fact that both the religious and the non believers are content to stay on their own sides of the fence. issuing knee-jerk reactions when things like this happen. Do i think that warren will do more of the same? Yes. But i’m also willing to let things play out a little bit before totally committing to that.

              Also, in other news, i finally figured out how to get into my Disqus name. No more using my real name. hahaha.

          • surrounded by reddit laziness

            Of course my post was inflammatory, but it also made a point, unlike charles. this Reddit-style voting allows people to vote down in lieu of actually voicing disagreement, though, so I’m not surprised by the results.

            I disagree with your point, too. we know warren only through his past actions and worldview, and neither are appropriate for aiding mental illness.

            • Tweekus

              I agree, believe it or not. But i’ve always been one to say “Well, dude prolly won’t change, but let’s see what happens.” Then again, I really do doubt that Warren will change, mainly due to his being a pastor of a church that makes more money in a day than most walmart employees make in a month.

              Also, very creative names, sir/madam. :D

  • Mike

    The way this is worded makes it sound like Rick Warren’s son and his wife both committed suicide. Might want to clean that up a bit.

    • griffox

      That’s what I thought at first. I was very confused and saddened to hear that his wife had died, too. I’m glad that that is not what happened. It’s hard enough losing a child.

  • Rain

    DEAN MARTIN: I’m doing my Ph.D. in neuroscience; I’m very close to the literature on evolutionary biology. And the basic point is that evolution by natural selection is random genetic mutation over millions of years in the context of environmental pressure that selects for fitness.

    JERRY LEWIS: Who’s doing the selecting?

    Just kidding that was actually Sam Harris and Rick Warren, and it’s not a joke. It actually happened. Now I actually feel sorry for Rick Warren. Good luck dragging us back to the dark ages where we do science by spontaneously blurting out our total non-sequitur gut instincts I guess.

    • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

      I’m familiar with the discussion you’re referring to, but what purpose does it serve to bring that up? Clearly, the regular commenters here are going to know that Warren has wacky views on a lot of things; the question here is whether or not that extends to mental illness. Your quote doesn’t help in that regard.

      • Rain

        Sorry my comment was off-topic. I was just saying he was ignorant and thick-headed about evolution but he thinks he can be an authority on it because he has magic Jesus powers. That’s all I was saying.

  • Christopher Borum

    Join Kay and I…

    Not to be that guy, but is there a specific prayer that helps people understand the difference between the nominative and objective cases?

    • allein

      Oh, good, I’m not the only one with that reaction. I felt bad that was my first thought, given the subject matter, though. :-/

  • CanadianNihilist

    Were they openly campaigning for this before they went through a personal tragedy?

  • TheAnti-Coconut

    I am skeptical that their efforts will lead to positive change in the public perception of the mentally ill or what mental illness is and isn’t. It’s not like the Warrens embrace a rational world view…we’ll see how this turns out…

  • http://adrianwarnock.com/ Adrian Warnock

    Thanks for posting about this. Totally agree that people of all faiths (and none for that matter) must all learn to approach mental illness in a more healthy way.


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