Rick and Kay Warren to Host 'Mental Health and the Church' Summit; Organizers Hope to Wipe Out Stigma of Mental Illness

Pastor Rick Warren and his wife, Kay, of Saddleback Church, will be joined by several experts in the field of mental health, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness-Orange County to host The Gathering on Mental Health and the Church later this month.

Open to everyone, The Gathering on Mental Health and the Church on March 28 is designed to encourage individuals living with mental illness, educate family members, and equip church leaders to provide effective and compassionate care to any who face the challenges of mental illness, say organizers.

"It's so important that people know, no matter how desperate their despair, there is hope, and not to give up," said Kay Warren. "We want this to be a hopeful event that encourages individuals and helps them realize they are not alone in dealing with mental illness."

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This event marks the first initiative in the Warrens' mission to remove the stigma of mental illness following the suicide of their son Matthew on April 5. The Warrens reported that their son struggled with mental illness most of his life.

"Any other part of the body, you can have it hurt and there is no shame in it," Pastor Rick Warren said. "If your brain doesn't work right, why do you have stigma? It's just another organ in your body."

According to the National Institutes of Health, one in four adults - approximately 61.5 million Americans - experiences mental illness in a given year. One in 17 - about 13.6 million - live with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, major depression or bipolar disorder.

Event organizers say the first place many go for help is to their faith leader because the heart of Jesus and the Church has always been for those who suffer.

Bishop Kevin Vann of the Diocese of Orange said the Catholic community is blessed to co-host the "important gathering."

"It is my hope that this opportunity for prayer, support, dialogue and education will encourage our society to share the healing mission and the love of Christ with those who suffer from mental illnesses," he commented.

The Gathering on Mental Health and the Church will take place 8:30 a.m. –9 p.m. PDT at the main campus of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif. The event will also be webcast live, with additional details to be announced soon.

Founded in 1980 by the Warrens, Saddleback Church is located in Orange County, Calif. With an average weekly attendance of 22,000, it is one of the largest churches in America.

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