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Four Things I Learned About Mental Illness and the Church from Kay Warren

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Kay Warren shared her compelling story with our Podcast listeners this week. Two and a half years ago her son, Matthew died by suicide at the age of 27 after struggling with severe depression since the young age of seven.

Kay and Rick Warren, founders of Saddleback Church, are passionately raising awareness about mental illness and equipping churches and families so we can better minister to people living with a mental illness while reducing the stigma so many experience.

*Listen to the complete podcast below.

What I Learned About Mental Illness from Kay Warren

Here are four things I learned about mental illness and the church from Kay:

1. Kay Warren: “Mental illness is real, it’s common and it’s treatable.”

Kay Warren said this is the most important thing she has to say about this issue. So many people have the wrong idea in church that mental illness is only a spiritual problem and can be fixed with prayer. She says, “The spiritual side of who we are is one layer, but we’re a whole – we’re a body, a soul, and a spirit, and things go wrong on all levels. And stuff goes wrong in our bodies and it affects our brains and it affects our behavior and our choices.”

She says, “Mental illness is largely treatable. There’s so much that can be done. There’s medication, there’s therapy, there’s things we can do to nourish our whole selves.”

Sadly, “It’s a neglected topic. When you get down to it, unless you take a specific course in seminary, you’re not likely to get a lot of education in seminary or Bible college about mental illness. And if you do, unfortunately, it usually will revolve around the idea that it’s all spiritual, and that there’s nothing physical or emotional that’s involved. So not only is it neglected, it can even be a distorted message taught.”

2. Statistics about Mental Illness and Suicide from Kay Warren

Studies show that there are about 60 million Americans who will experience a mental illness in any given year, so that’s like one in five adults, one in ten children will experience a mental illness in any given year.

Far from being rare and unusual, we all know somebody right now in this moment who is living with a mental illness, or it could be you, it could be me.

Half of all adults will experience a mental illness in their lifetime

There’s no respecter of age, race, family.

70% of clergy (Matthew Stanford Survey) don’t feel equipped to handle mental illness, so we have to do a better job of equipping because it’s common.

About 23% of pastoral care calls are related to mental illness.