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

90% of people who take their life have an underlying mental illness.

41,000 people last year died by taking their life. That’s twice as many as the number of people murdered each year.

It’s an epidemic of tragic proportions. Every 14 minutes, someone in the United States takes their life and every 15 minutes a family member is left to pick up the pieces of their lives.

3. How the Church Can Help

Kay understands the role of medicine and professional help, but says we also have a part in this. “Yes, it’s a medical illness and there’s a role for the medical community and it’s a person who’s living with an illness. Nobody talks about personhood more effectively than the church. We understand the person. John Swinton talks about how we have the opportunity to resurrect the person who’s living with an illness instead of being stigmatized or rejected.”

She shares how powerful the role of the church could be. “When people understand they’re embraced and welcomed with their brokenness, with their illness in the church then they’re personhood is resurrected and nobody can do that better than the church.”

Let’s get educated and equipped. Saddleback Church is hosting The Gathering on Mental Health and The Church. Get information, and learn from conferences, websites and books like:

Grace for the Afflicted by Matthew Stanford

Troubled Minds by Amy Simpson

Resurrecting the Person by John Swinton

4. How You Can Help

“Today on World Suicide Prevention Day, I would say this is not just something for professionals, but look at the people in your life. Look at them and see if there are changes in their behavior, in their attitude, in their mood, in their ability to cope with stress. If you start seeing changes that go for a couple of weeks, observe that and then be bold enough to, in a very kind and loving way, just say “Hey, you know I noticed that you just don’t seem yourself right now. Are you okay?”

She continues, “And as they talk with you, use the word ‘suicide’ and ask, “Have you thought about taking your own life? Have you given any thought to suicide?”

“We have this misunderstanding that if we bring up the word suicide, it’s going to plant that thought into somebody’s mind. Absolutely not so – that’s a myth. It’s actually a huge relief to many people to know that somebody will listen to you if you’re feeling that way and that they’re not afraid and you can actually say what it is that’s on your mind.”

Fortunately, we can help. “If they say yes (to being suicidal), you don’t have to fix all their problems, you just need to help keep them safe.”

She offers some examples of how you can help. Ask your friend or loved one, “Can we call the Suicide Hotline together? Can I take you to the pastor? Or can we talk to your parents together?” She says, “Just that offering of help and very simple things like that can prevent suicide.”

Be sure to listen to the full conversation here!

Every single life matters. Let’s fight this together.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if people knew church was a safe place to get real, effective help in a loving, biblical community focused on healing, wholeness and resurrecting that which is dead, hurting or asleep?

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Esther Laurie
Esther Laurie is a staff writer at ChurchLeaders.com. Her background is in communication and church ministry. She believes in the power of the written word and the beauty of transformation and empowering others. When she’s not working, she loves running, exploring new places and time with friends and family. It’s her goal to work the word ‘whimsy’ into most conversations.

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