Mental illness can kill…even in the best of families

imagesI’ve never personally met Rick Warren or his wife…although I was very flattered when I learned he was “following” me on Twitter, but I’d ask all those who follow our blog to keep Rick, his wife Kay, and those close to his family in your prayers. Rick and his wife shared this prayer request with the people of Saddleback Church earlier today…On behalf of our Board, staff and volunteers at Key Ministry, we would pray the Warren family would experience God’s comfort and presence during this difficult time, and that God will use Matthew and the circumstances around his death for good, bringing God greater honor and glory and for the expansion of His Kingdom.


We live in a broken world with broken bodies and broken minds. I come across families all the time in my practice who live every day seeking to honor God who pray every day for their children struggling with some type of mental illness that they would experience healing and an inner peace. Sometimes God doesn’t answer their prayers in the way that we would desire or expect. I can’t imagine how any kid could have more godly parents than Rick and Kay Warren. There aren’t many families alive that have done more to advance the Gospel than the Warren’s. It’s reasonable to assume that they prayed continually for their son and did everything they possibly could to relieve his distress since the onset of his mental illness.

What I find reassuring…and highly motivating in this tragic story…is that by Rick’s account above, Matthew had come to know and believe in Jesus, and his family and friends can be assured today in the midst of their despair that Matthew is finally at peace and living in the presence of his Heavenly Father who loves him infinitely more than his earthly family above. About the only thing I can think of that would be more difficult than what the Warren family experienced this morning would be losing a child to suicide without the assurance that they’d be living forever in the presence of Jesus.

Several observations I’d like to share…

  • Growing up in a loving family of great faith or coming to a personal faith in Jesus Christ is no guarantee of being spared of the pain and suffering of mental illness while living in a fallen world.
  • As a physician practicing child and adolescent psychiatry, I fully appreciate the seriousness of mental illness. An argument can be made that outside of trauma surgeons and emergency room physicians, my medical specialty probably sees more teens and young adults in life and death situations than any other. According to the Centers for Disease Control, suicide is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. among persons ages 10-24, and the second leading cause of death (behind only motor vehicle accidents) in 25-34 year olds. Among 15-24 year olds, suicide is three times more common than death from cancer. Kids and young adults die from mental illness, and sometimes the best psychiatrists and therapists can’t do much about it.
  • Finally, it’s absolutely unacceptable to me that there are far too many kids and far too many families struggling with potentially lethal mental illnesses who haven’t had the opportunity to learn about Jesus and come to faith in Him or be a part of a family of faith (like Saddleback). One way for those of us in the church…especially those of us in the disability ministry movement…to honor the memory of Matthew Warren would be to radically expand our efforts to reach out to and share the Gospel with kids, teens and young adults impacted by mental illness and their families.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.  You know the way to the place where I am going.”

John 14:1-4 (NIV)

Photo from Christian Post


Key Ministry’s mission is to help churches reach families affected by disability by providing FREE resources to pastors, volunteers, and individuals who wish to create an inclusive ministry environment. We have designed our Key Catalog to create fun opportunities for our ministry supporters to join in our mission through supporting a variety of gift options. Click here to check it out! For a sixty second summary of what Key Ministry does, watch the video below…


About Dr. G

Dr. Stephen Grcevich serves as President and Founder of Key Ministry, a non-profit organization providing free training, consultation, resources and support to help churches serve families of children with disabilities. Dr. Grcevich is a graduate of Northeastern Ohio Medical University (NEOMED), trained in General Psychiatry at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at University Hospitals of Cleveland/Case Western Reserve University. He is a faculty member in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at two medical schools, leads a group practice in suburban Cleveland (Family Center by the Falls), and continues to be involved in research evaluating the safety and effectiveness of medications prescribed to children for ADHD, anxiety and depression. He is a past recipient of the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Dr. Grcevich was recently recognized by Sharecare as one of the top ten online influencers in children’s mental health. His blog for Key Ministry, was ranked fourth among the top 100 children's ministry blogs in 2015 by Ministry to Children.
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9 Responses to Mental illness can kill…even in the best of families

  1. Ann Holmes says:

    Thanks, Steve! I wondered when you would post something about this tragedy! You are right – the pain of losing a child under ANY circumstances is devastating … and losing a child by suicide – the pain is hard to imagine! I’m sure the comfort of knowing Matthew is with Jesus will be comfort going forward but, right now, not so much except with the eyes of faith! Losing a child without the assurance of heaven is suffering too hideous to bear! Yes, we of the church and especially those who passionately care about loving the special needs “community” (one life, one family at a time) have a great opportunity here to step up and make a difference, however small, right where we live and serve the King and His Kingdom!


  2. Rebecca says:

    Having had to deal with mental illness in my own family, across more than one generation and others (non-related) with similar struggles, this tragedy weighs heavy on my heart. Especially as all those I’ve known have known the Lord. I’m thankful I haven’t had to deal with a physical suicide. I’ve “only” had to watch those I’ve loved suffer painfully, constantly and mostly silently because there is no place to talk about such things in church. I’ve watched them give up on themselves, on God and on God’s family. I’m sad to say that I’ve basically given up hope of “church” groups understanding mental illness, much less accepting and supporting the “imperfections” of those whose lives and families are affected by mental illness.


  3. drgrcevich says:

    Rebecca…sorry you’ve had such a negative experience with groups at church. The folks at Mental Health Grace Alliance are doing a wonderful job of educating churches and supporting families impacted by depression and other mental illnesses through their Grace Groups. You can access their site through a link in this post…


  4. Gary Frey says:


    What an excellent article. Thank you for using your talents, training, and passions to help individuals, families, and churches in what I consider to be a very Christ-honoring manner. You are a gift. Thank you.



  5. kdignan says:

    I can relate to them we lost our 20 year old son 10 years ago. I’m a pastor as well. We must pray for Pastor Rick Warren and his family and church at the loss of their 27 year old son.


  6. kdignan says:

    Reblogged this on Kdignan’s Weblog.


  7. Pingback: Great Minds in Ministry on Mental Health at a Time of Great Loss | MINISTRY MOMENTS

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