Interview: Kay Warren: Moms of Kids with Mental Illness Need Christ and Community

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The California-based ministry leader recently hosted a retreat for mothers of suffering kids.

I first met Kay Warren a few years ago when we served together on a federal task force focused on the intersection of faith and mental health, a topic that has touched both our lives in profound ways.

Like many Christian women, I’d followed her from a distance for decades, admiring her advocacy on HIV/AIDS issues and global orphan care and tracking all that God was doing through her and her husband, Rick Warren, at Saddleback Church in California. But then I got to know Kay at a more personal level, as a faithful and compassionate friend who understands what it means to be a mother of a child with serious mental illness.

Warren has extended this friendship to many others like me. After her son Matthew’s death by suicide, she made a commitment to help mothers in similar situations. This passion led to a new retreat called Breathe, held recently in San Juan Capistrano, California and attended by almost 90 moms of children with mental illness.

After the event, I spoke with Warren about the isolation of parenting someone with mental illness, the comforts of Scripture, and what she’s learned about God after Matthew’s death.

With all the advocacy and educational work that you do on mental health issues, why was doing a retreat for moms a priority?

After Matthew died, I talked to hundreds of parents who have kids with mental illness. And it slowly began to dawn on me that not only did parents not have enough support, they didn’t have good community.

There are a lot of reasons for that. There’s stigma and discrimination against people living with mental illness. In the Christian community, there’s a standard that we feel like we have to measure up to—you know, perfect marriages, perfect …

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