Seeing in the Dark: Mental Health in the Church Today

An Interview with Kay Warren

You may be shocked by what you are about to read: After cancer and heart disease, suicide accounts for more years of life lost than any other cause of death.

Kay Warren
Kay Warren
  • 41,149 suicides were reported in 2013—that’s two suicides for every reported murder, one suicide death every 12.8 minutes1“Facts and Figures,” American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, http://www.afsp.org/understanding-suicide/facts-and-figures, accessed Sept. 11, 2015..
  • Even more shocking is the church’s inaccurate beliefs about mental health issues, as identified in the most recent mental health study conducted by LifeWay Research.2“Study of Acute Mental Illness and Christian Faith: Research Report,” LifeWay Research, http://www.lifewayresearch.com/files/2014/09/Acute-Mental-Illness-and-Christian-Faith-Research-Report-1.pdf, accessed Sept. 11, 2015.

We cannot continue to neglect this enormous area of need.

After personal tragedy and with professional insight, Kay Warren offers practical tools and hands-on direction for supporting individuals and families struggling with mental health challenges.

Watch the Interview

Interview Questions

  1. Tell us about the loss of your son Matthew.
  2. Why is it essential that we begin talking about the problem of depression?
  3. How did an old Bible study become the theme of your new book?
  4. How can we choose to be joyful even in the midst of grief?
  5. Why must churches fill the gaps in caring for grieving people?
  6. Tell us about your acrostic that gives tips on how a church can be more effective at ministering to hurting people.
  7. How can being open about our own pains and losses help free up others to deal with their own grief?
  8. Why are times of emotional darkness useful for spiritual growth?
  9. What words should we absolutely never say to someone grieving a loss?
  10. What can we say to the person who is struggling with spiritual darkness?

Let Me Hear from You

It’s time to crush the stigma of mental illness, isn’t it? Likely, you or someone you know suffers with a mental health issue. Can this person come to you for help? Does your church have a proven system for helping people with mental health needs? With love and grace, are you willing to reach into the lives of those who are marginalized? How quickly do most Christians respond to broken families, broken lives, and broken bodies but run from those who may have broken or fractured minds? I challenge you to connect with someone who is hurting. As you do, let me know what happens. I bet you will be amazed!

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

About Kay Warren

Kay WarrenAlong with her husband, Rick, Kay Warren is cofounder of Saddleback Church in Southern California. She is an international speaker, best-selling author, and Bible teacher who has a passion for inspiring and motivating others to make a difference with their lives. She is best known for her 10 years as a tireless advocate for those living with HIV and AIDS, children who are orphaned and vulnerable, and those who suffer from mental health issues. Kay speaks honestly about her own lifelong struggle with depression, parenting a child in tremendous pain, losing a son to suicide, and finding joy and hope through life’s darkest struggles.

Kay Warren Resources

You can contact Kay, as well as see information on her books, articles, initiatives, devotionals, and more on her Web site.

Insight for Living Ministries Resources

Topical Pages:

Counseling Insights:

Additional Suggested Resources

Notes:   [ + ]

1. “Facts and Figures,” American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, http://www.afsp.org/understanding-suicide/facts-and-figures, accessed Sept. 11, 2015.
2. “Study of Acute Mental Illness and Christian Faith: Research Report,” LifeWay Research, http://www.lifewayresearch.com/files/2014/09/Acute-Mental-Illness-and-Christian-Faith-Research-Report-1.pdf, accessed Sept. 11, 2015.
  • donna

    A lot of the resources are geared toward Christians. My son is 29 and although was raised in church has chosen a long time ago to turn his back on . He struggles with anxiety and depression, he has since he was a child. A lot of what we offer people is to cling to God, to chose to continue to seek him for hope and strength. To Seek support in the church etc. What does a parent do or say to a child who does not believe in God? How do I help him to have hope or see hope when he doesn’t believe in the one thing that i find my hope and strength in? It is so hard to see him try again and again on his own. I can’t say anything about God to him, he shuts down.

    • donna

      Thank you both for sharing! It is so hard to share with such openness. May God use this to touch and encourage many. To know we are not alone, that means SO MUCH!

      • Donna,

        Your words mean so much…thank you.

        I have learned its easier to be real than trying to hide what others see anyways. Authenticity is always the best policy in my book! = )
        I’m glad you know you are not alone…none of us are and to speak into your life is an honor. Thanks again…I hope you will reach out anytime!

        Colleen

    • Donna,

      I’m so sorry for the deep struggles you encounter with your son. So often, we think if we have raised our kids in the church they will automatically adopt our beliefs. The reality is that your son has grown up with a certain model which does work…Jesus is the answer! But until he finds that truth for his life, your faith won’t carry him through. We have to allow our kids to grow up and make choices for themselves or they aren’t really ‘grown up’ internally. If you want him to have a love for Jesus that is authentic and real…that comes from his heart, then let him come to the end of himself (and God has countless ways of bringing us to our own ends) and put his trust in the Lord.
      It’s great that you see his emotional reaction of shutting down; that tells me you are aware and respectful of what he is telling you non verbally. Way to go! Take those observations and put words to them…enter into his experiences with empathy and love. Meaning, if he is frustrated or lonely or angered or disappointed about something that hasn’t worked out for him, simply come along side and say “I’m sorry that _____ happened…that has to be a lonely experience, that must be really frustrating, feeling angry is tough, I’m sorry that didn’t work out, can I help in any way…” “God” or “spiritual answers” will only drive him further from sharing with you.
      Donna, the Lord has your son…He loves your son more than you could imagine loving him and His plan is a good one. I learned the very hard way that God didn’t need my help in saving my kids. I had to get out of the way. My daughter said she started to trust and listen when I stopped talking…when I closed my mouth and just walked along side her…entered into her experiences without trying to fix or change her. It’s so counterintuitive! But, just as you want the freedom to choose your beliefs, so does your son. Your sincere trust in Jesus Christ is deep…He is our strength and our hope…lets trust Him to care for your son. Let your faith speak for itself, love your son and watch what Jesus can do. There are countless Christian resources, you are right on about that. Maybe your life, your love will be the single most valuable resource your son runs to one day. I pray this brings encouragement to you today.
      Together in Faith,
      Colleen

      • donna

        Thank you for these words of encouragement. I needed this reminder today!

        • Donna,
          You have been on my mind often lately…it’s so good to hear from you. How are things going and how are you handling the different approach with him? It’s got to be hard; most of the time change is hard at first. So my prayers will continue and know I’m here for you anytime. It’s so good to connect today. Have a blessed weekend. Colleen

  • Sand

    Hello Colleen, I was beginning to listen to your interview with Kay Warren. I love your interviews and how open and honest. If there is one place any individual can go, your openness and very real stories will be the place I can speak by my own experience, that this is where one would come for this trusting support and encouragement. Oh my I cannot believe what you are describing about a “true friend”,not one pressuring another ! wow, how familiar is this with my unhealthy friend, I am continously pressured. wow.

    This is one of the most amazing interviews, maybe because i understand so well, I had a letter written at one time, I did not take action at that time for my dog needed me and the unhealhty friend kept me on the telephone and talked me away from sitting in my car in garage. I know now it was all stimulated by the vicous revenge my oldest sister chose toward me, my first wedding of her oldest daughter i was not invited. All for my coming forth final time to oldest sister that I did not want to hear about her husband (pediophile), I had enouhg and yes it may have been aggressive words i had about him,as I was angry and she in denial and speaking all about him and like my famiily as if nothing every was wrong, defending the actions and the individual who did wrong to many young females and females in general to ladies.

    I look forward to listening to this further. I want to say I am so sorry that your daughter had this crisis within, yet I am so beyond grateful that she had you there, to acknowledge,to support,to “talk to” with amazing wisdom to share and encouragement that comes from the deepest part of who you are,your honesty, your heart.
    Thank you so much for this interview. I am so happy that you have shared this interview and as always very real and true experience that yes many run the other way. I am so glad that I am choosing to build the foundation of God and Jesus Holy Spirit in my heart and soul.
    Kay speaks so well about wrestling with God through the nite,and your question I absolutely resonate as this is what i have been choosing as you are aware. “Life is Beautiful”
    “How can we choose to be joyful even in the midst of grief? – See more at: http://specialneeds.iflblog.com/2015/10/mental-health-in-the-church-today/?ga=hmsldr4-snintrv#sthash.YUmu5GkE.dpuf
    Thank you for this most sensitive subject being opened to talk about. and yes I often think I wish I was the individual passing,as they are so fortunate to be leaving to Heaven! what an amazing focus on this I have shared personally and it is being spoken about. I am sorry for the hurt that comes of these individual thoughts, yet I am so grateful you are talking so honestly here along with Kay.
    With Love
    Sand

  • Sand

    This interview is so amazing. Identifying and acknowledgement with the depth of core hurt and sorrow,and real struggles at the core. I am sorry that your Mom struggled, I had as well listened to your Mom and your Dad message to tell your Mom story on the Insight for living cd/tape. She is an amazing woman I always thought in listening more than one time. She is an amazing person. This is all so difficult to talk about,yet it is vital to bring those without hope back to a place of hope that you both have shared in your interview. Kay is also amazing ,she so similar to you that research BIble until have the foundation of His word. Really profound interview. So meaningful to listen and hearing this being discussed openly from every perspective.”looking for treasures in the darkness” Kay Warren, reminds me of “Life is Beautiful”, looking for those Joys that you have shared and we have discussed.
    I am so sorry for Kay Warren loss of her beautiful son, I love his name Matthew David, and I hear her deep pain and sorrow. I love the pulling of treasures with something as devastating as this pain she has known, “beautiful mosiac” beauty found in the darkness with her loss incredible inner strength.And yes I love the discussion of the dynamic as well to not say this in those moements, so glad too she has included this angle /dynamic. How amazing this has been to listen.
    With Love
    Sand

  • Vincent Owen Gonzalez

    I watched the Warren interview and have a couple brief comments. Early in my ministry years my wife and I had a daughter who was born with severe birth defects. She only lived 11 weeks. Our toddler son who we included with her care by getting diapers for his baby “sissa” (her name was Melissa and she was his sister. After her passing he would wake up every night for months crying in hysteria. Not having verbal skills there was no way to communicate other than to hold him close and cry with him until he settled down and went back to sleep.
    The following year the Lord blessed us with twins and I cannot tell you the number of time members would say that God gave us two in the place of the one He took. Because I was staff we had to suck it up and take it. It was painful to say the least. Our twins are a blessing (they are in their 30s now) but nothing ever could take the place of our daughter.
    Shortly after our twins were born I started having mental health issues. I was diagnosed with Schizoaffective – Bipolar disorder, PTSD, OCD. We tried as best we could to hide it from the church knowing it would cost me my position. We sought professional assistance right away and PTL medications and therapy worked well for me. We had to drive 80-120 miles to get help as the church I was serving was in a small town where “everybody knew everybody.”
    It was through those years that the Lord gave me a calling to help others with mental health issues. I am no longer in ministry and am on disability but volunteer leading support groups, being a peer mentor and a Stephen Minister. I can’t tell you the number of sermons I endured by pastors and evangelists who labeled me as not having enough faith and trust in God, being spiritually weak depending on medication instead of the Lord. This is so untrue and damaging. I have had eight suicide attempts but I found my voice and strength and courage trusting the Lord to help others by speaking for those who can not speak for themselves. I live every day with mental health problems but in Christ I have learned to rise above them. I have had people ask if I feel anger because I am not “normal.” My response is I am normal, I am who God created me to be. God has blessed me with this “affliction” so that I may be a blessing to others and I can understand what others endure in ways that most people can’t.
    Keep your ministry strong and help those who are weak.
    Rev. Vince Gonzalez, Sr.
    North Ft Myers, Florida

    • Vincent,
      I am so honored your wrote and shared your experience…as painful as it is, you are among so many who are deeply hurt by the “church” and those who choose not to understand. I’m so thankful you were able to find Kay’s words encouraging; I can’t express my sorrow for what you have endured. The ‘hiding’, ‘secret’ stuff is so full of shame and judgment…I am so very sorry. One of the goals of this project is to break the stigma of suffering and loss in many areas; mental health seems to be one of the biggest. Thankfully, the tide is turning…slowly….but as people are choosing to learn and change, there is hope. There is no one more equipped to care for another person in pain than one who has endured pain as well. I love Paul’s words in II Corinthians 1:3-11 which offers us comfort and helps us find a purpose to what God has allowed. I can only imagine how comforting you are as a “Stephen Minister”! May the Lord continue to bless you, comfort you in those moments of grief, guide you and keep you in His care. Finally, a long time ago I came across the work of Gene Edwards who wrote “A Tale Of Three Kings: A Study in Brokenness”. He also wrote a profound book titled “Exquisite Agony-Experiencing the Cross”, later retitled as “Crucified by Christians: Healing for Christians…”. Both of those works moved my soul deeply and I’ve passed them on to many who have experienced pain from other Christians. Thank you again for your honesty; it’s my guess that there are hundreds who will read your words and find them comforting as they too have endured such pain. May the Lord bless you and keep you in His sovereign care…I hope we can continue to connect, I would love to hear about your work as a Stephen Minister. Peace and Joy to you, Colleen

  • Sand,
    Part of growth is acknowledging the wrongdoing that was done to you…and yes, that is something to be angry about. What we do with our anger is what makes or breaks our lives. You have continued to pursue growth in Christ…the only way to find real change in our lives. It’s obvious those that remain most unhealthy and demoralizing to you are those who choose to believe their trauma and drama is necessary to fill life. To me, that is the perfect ingredients for chaos and unhealthy living. You have stepped away and yes, at a great cost and loss. IN THE TEMPORARY but not forever. Living an intentional, purposeful life is often marked with loneliness and isolation. This is what Christ lived through; it is what we endure until we meet our Lord in eternity. So you are not alone…you are surrounded by so “great a cloud of witnesses” as Hebrews 11 speaks of…those who obeyed and followed God’s plan were rarely rewarded on earth but highly rewarded in heaven. So keep the faith, stay the path, and know you are not alone. All my love, Colleen