As the pandemic has resulted in increased anxiety and depressive disorder among Americans, Saddleback Church co-founder Kay Warren says the Church can play a unique role in caring for those with mental illness and their families no matter how “messy” situations might be.
During a message delivered Thursday at the 2021 Evangelical Press Association Christian Media Convention, Warren, who co-founded the California-based megachurch with her husband, Rick, reflected on the death of her son, Matthew. He took his own life in 2013 after a life-long battle with mental illness.
“I'll tell you — I will miss my son every day for the rest of my life, until that glorious resurrection day when I see Jesus and see Matthew again,” she said.
After Matthew’s death, Warren founded Saddleback’s Hope for Mental Health Initiative to support individuals and family members of loved ones with mental illness and suicidal ideation.
She shared statistics revealing that one in five adults in the United States and one in five children will be affected by mental illness in the coming year. Suicide has become the second leading cause of death among people 10 to 34 years of age.
“Where do people go who are living with mental health challenges? Where do they go to find compassionate care and understanding? Where can they find hope for their dark days?” Warren asked. “I really believe that the Church of Jesus Christ needs to be that safe, welcoming, and compassionate place for all who suffer.”
“There's a desperate need for the Church to engage with individuals with mental health challenges and their families,” she added. “The Church is positioned to take strong leadership and to provide the help that others can't.”
The Kaiser Family Foundation reported in February that about four in 10 adults in the U.S. have during the pandemic reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder, an increase from one in 10 who reported these symptoms in 2019.
The report also found that young adults have experienced various pandemic-related consequences, such as the closure of schools and loss of income that may contribute to poor mental health.