Saturday was a deeply emotional day for the family of Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. His youngest son, Matthew, who had been battling mental illness and periods of depression and had been harboring suicidal thoughts since childhood, decided to take his own life late Friday. The announcement came via an email the pastor sent to his 20,000-strong congregation. The incident happened after they have enjoyed a pleasant time together with the rest of the family.
The youngest of the three sons of Rick and Kay Warren, Matthew was only 27 years old. The pastor recalled that his son was a compassionate, gentle and kind who was always ready to provide comfort and encouragement to many people; that he instinctively knows who needs those emotional things the most.
Pastor Warren, founder of the Saddleback Church, is the author of the popular inspirational book, “Purpose Driven Life.”
Behind the façade of comfort and inspiration
According to the pastor his son had been tested and cared for by the best doctors in America, had taken prescribed medicines, gone through prayers for healing and counseling and yet was not able to find a permanent cure for his painful mental illness, his bouts of depression and his occasional suicidal thoughts. The pastor also recalled that his son told him that since he knew that he was going to heaven, he was asking why his life had not yet ended and that he did not need to suffer anymore. The pastor also recalled that only people closest to the family knew of his son’s mental illness, although his son fought his condition bravely and continued to present his caring and comforting self to those in need.
Matthew’s death was apparently caused by a gunshot wound. Orange County Sheriff-Coroner’s Department estimates the time of death at about ten in the morning of Friday. His body was found in the afternoon of Friday. Police are still conducting further investigation and has ordered an autopsy.
Mental illness is scientifically defined as a “medical condition that disrupts a person’s mood ability to relate to others, moods, feelings, and normal functions on a daily basis. It lessens the capacity of a person to cope even with life’s ordinary demands.
Some of the more serious mental illnesses include obsessive compulsive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia and depression. It can affect someone at any age and it is not selective on income, religion and race. It is not caused by poor upbringing, lack of character or personal weakness.
While the illness is debilitating, recovery from serious mental illness is possible, with an active participation in specially-drawn treatment plan for an individual.
Photo Credit: Rick Warren at TED