Interview: Kay Warren On What Every Church Member Can Do About Suicide and Mental Illness

All church members can play a role in helping those with mental illness.

Ed: When talking about mental health, I often think of Galatians 6:2: “Carry one another’s burdens.” I know we want to be a caring church, but I think a lot of churches don’t know how to be a carrying church. Why should we carry the burden of people who are living with mental illness or considering suicide?

Kay: The obvious reason is because Jesus cares about them and he walked alongside people in their most desperate times. When people were cast out by society, like the woman at the well or the lepers, Jesus offered them his presence. He didn’t withhold himself from them, so why should we? If anything, he ran toward them and met them with compassion when they came his direction.

Ministering to people with severe mental illness or suicidal thoughts is messy work, because sometimes people are hanging on by a fingernail. We become a voice of love that whispers that they still matter, even in their illness and struggle. They have dignity—they’re made in the image of God and have worth. When we come alongside and provide practical care by cleaning their house, holding their hand, and being with them in their most disheveled and frightened state, we remind them that they have worth.

Ed: Since your son Matthew’s death, what have you been encouraged by in the direction of the church broadly? How do you feel when you look at the state of this conversation that you and Rick helped launch?

Kay: I am very encouraged; I see positive movement everywhere I look. There are more conversations taking place, more pastors willing to preach a sermon on mental illness or suicide, and more people who are living with mental illness that are willing to tell their stories. More churchgoers are willing to say, “This is a place where we should be showing up.”

So I am encouraged, but the dilemma is the “what.” People will say, “Yes, I want to care and I do care, but I just don’t know what to do.” We are still a little behind in giving people the practical, here’s-how-you-can-do-it resources and here’s step-by-step things you can do. But we will get there.

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