Rick and Kay Warren Speak Out On Their Son’s Suicide

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness  (c)2013 Nancy Virden

25923449 Comedy And Tragedy Theatrical Masks Concept“On an impulse in a flash of depression.” This is how Rick Warren described his son Matthew’s suicide.

Rick is author of The Purpose-Driven Life and pastor of Saddleback Church in California. He talked about their close family, the great healthcare Matthew had received all his life for his Bipolar Disorder, and of the many prayers that had gone up over the years for Matthew’s safety.

Kay Warren, author of Choose Joy, nearly begged her listeners to rebuild hope when life makes no sense. Both of them emphasized that followers of Christ can have hope on the worst days because of what we know. We know God is near, that He loves us, and this life is not all there is.

Neither of them tried to paste easy platitudes over suffering. They did blame Satan, the sins of man since creation, and a broken world. As they confessed they did not understand the “why” of their son’s tragedy, God’s trustworthiness was held up repeatedly.

Purpose. Joy. Hope.

Mental illness robs us of a sense of each. I want to stand on the highest stage and shout to the world, “People, get it already!”  Mental illness is insidious, sneaky, unpredictable, and rampant. It takes away reason from an otherwise brilliant mind. It fills a faithful Christian with despair as it convinces the sufferer he or she is spiritually dead. It steals the future from young and old alike.

Purpose. Joy. Hope.

These are goals for me and for many like me. I know people who can on a moment’s notice describe in great detail their purpose in life. They are passionate about their work and calling. Some can speak of joy as if it never leaves their heart. They smile and laugh easily.

Most individuals understand there is hope even when life is difficult; that is because most do not struggle with mental illness. Some of us have to do mental and spiritual calisthenics each day, and even several times a day in order to rise above depression or some other mental disorder.

Observing another person’s despair and suicidal thinking, one could sit back and say, “Oh, that person has choices. They can get to work, think happy thoughts, go to church, sing praises, trust God more!” Sorry, that is just ignorance.

With all due respect to people who do not grasp the difference between a disease and a decision,  I say listen to Rick and Kay Warren’s candid talk. Matthew wanted with all his heart to be normal, was a strong believer and follower of Christ, and loved others with a tender heart. He never achieved normal, not because he was wrong or bad or weak, but because his brain was ill. He died because a disease killed him.

Matthew was stronger than most on this planet, not weaker. How do I know? Because he lived to be 27 years old fighting nearly every day for life while his brain challenged him to quit. How many  of the “normals” have to choose life each morning?

Pious and self-righteous pew-sitters may judge Matthew and the entire Warren family. Even as Rick and Kay spoke, someone tweeted on the church’s live stream, “I think Matthew is in hell.”  Now, that’s just mean.

Purpose. Joy. Hope.

We can all seek these.  In the world of mental illness all three exist and are accessible. They may not look typical, though. A sufferer’s purpose might be to survive another 24 hours for her children.  Joy may briefly enter a tender heart, then vanish. Hope may have to be borrowed.

A sense of purpose, joy, and hope are going to have a hard time arriving on the scene when the sick one is being mocked, corrected “in love,” and charged with criminal unsaintliness. For the Matthew’s, the unknown, my family, me… please, if you do not have insight into mental illness, don’t judge.

Instead, jump down into the mud for awhile and watch us get through it. You will learn what strength is, and we will be grateful recipients of your knowledgeable and compassionate love.


NOTE: I am not a trained or licensed mental health professional. I am not a doctor. I speak only from my experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or if you are concerned about someone who is,  please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.

*photo from qualitystockphotos.com

4 thoughts on “Rick and Kay Warren Speak Out On Their Son’s Suicide

  1. Antidepressants may increase suicidal thoughts or behaviors in some
    children, teenagers, and young adults, especially within the first few
    months of treatment or when the dose is changed. Patients on antidepressants and their families or
    caregivers should watch for new or worsening depression symptoms,
    unusual changes in behavior, or thoughts of suicide. Such symptoms
    should be reported to the patient’s healthcare provider right away,
    especially if they are severe or occur suddenly…

    All of the classes of psychiatric drugs can cause suicidal, irrational,
    and/or manic behavior. Among other effects, these drugs cause a
    neurological condition called “akathesia,” which means that persons who
    take them can’t sit still and feel like they are jumping out of their
    skin. They behave in an agitated manner which they cannot control and
    experience unbearable rage, delusions, and disassociation.

    Psych meds made me suicidal and this resulted in a ride in a police car to the psychiatric hospital where they blamed all these bad reactions on the new psychiatric label I was given and then went ahead and forced more of these nasty drugs on me.

    How many times was Rick Warrens son Mathew assaulted with psychiatric treatment ? I wonder.


    1. To kidsnodrugs,

      First, I apologize for the time lapse between your comment and my answer. I’ve just returned from one month of residential treatment.

      I cannot speak to your condition, of course. However, for me and the dozens of people I’ve met in hospitals, support groups, rehab, and in the community, psych meds played a large role in the saving of our lives. While it is true that some drugs (of any genre) can cause problems for some people, most do not.

      Anti-depressants and mood stabilizers have helped to make my brain function as it was created to. With a properly functioning brain I am free to choose reason, beliefs, responses, etc.

      Thank you for reading and commenting,


  2. As one who (with other family members) dealt with severe depression and attempted suicide in when I was 22 years old and a new college graduate, my heart and prayers go out to you. I too had to deal with the kind of toxic Christianity that made me feel hopeless and worthless within most Christian circles. Fortunately, I was “adopted” by a family who gave me wonderful guidance along with a good psychotherapist. I went on to a successful academic career and now at age 70 am active and filled with purpose every day. Yes, I still struggle sometimes, but I have the coping skills needed to overcome the considerable mental problems largely of the past. May you sense the reassurance and care of our loving Lord.


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