A Powerful Voice For Parents: Kay Warren Talks Openly About Her Son’s Suicide & Loss

(9-24-18) I recently found myself sitting next to Kay Warren, the co-founder of the Saddleback Church in California, at a meeting of religious leaders and mental health professionals.

This first of its kind event was organized by Shannon Royce, Director of the Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS Center) and SAMHSA to discuss ways to better educate pastors about mental illnesses and mental health professionals about how spirituality can assist an individual’s recovery.

Pastors often are the first called by religious families and many are ill prepared.

I was deeply moved when Ms. Warren spoke lovingly about her son, Matthew, who ended his life at age 27 in April 2013, after a long battle with mental illness. She and her husband, Rick Warren, have used their pulpits to bring mental illnesses out of the evangelical closet.

“A sad reality that I’ve experienced,” Ms. Warren was quoted saying in a Christian Today interview, “is when Christians look at another Christian and say you can’t possibly be experiencing depression or anxiety or if you are you’ve failed, or you don’t love Jesus enough or aren’t praying enough. That just stabs me in the heart..”

After the conference, I began reading her blog. My father was a minister and I spent much of my life involved in different churches, although lately I’ve been slack about attending and generally don’t talk about my personal religious (or political) beliefs in this blog.

Ms. Warren generously offered to allow me to reprint one of her writings. It was difficult to choose  because so much of what she has written is timely and powerful.  (See Sitting On The Edge Of Hell, a recent post about mental illness.)

I have chosen a Facebook post that she authored shortly after her son’s  death – perhaps because my wife, Patti, and I both have had to deal with unexpected deaths. Patti’s first husband and two younger sisters died from cancer. I lost my 16 year-old sister, Alice, when I was a teen. Grief is difficult for everyone, especially those who have lost a loved one to suicide.

I am not alone in admiring her 800-word Facebook missive. It went viral with 3.75 million readers and 10,000 comments.

Used by permission. Copyrighted by Kay Warren on Facebook:

As the one-year anniversary of Matthew’s death approaches, I have been shocked by some subtle and not-so-subtle comments indicating that perhaps I should be ready to “move on.” The soft, compassionate cocoon that has enveloped us for the last 11 1/2 months had lulled me into believing others would be patient with us on our grief journey, and while I’m sure many will read this and quickly say “Take all the time you need,” I’m increasingly aware that the cocoon may be in the process of collapsing. It’s understandable when you take a step back. I mean, life goes on. The thousands who supported us in the aftermath of Matthew’s suicide wept and mourned with us, prayed passionately for us, and sent an unbelievable volume of cards, letters, emails, texts, phone calls, and gifts. The support was utterly amazing.

Click to continue…

A Daughter Diagnosed With Bipolar Disorder Frustrated By Her Father Who Has Bipolar 

FROM MY FILES FRIDAY:  Mental illnesses can strike multiple family members as this email sent to me some six years ago shows.

Hi Pete Earley,

…I came across your book while looking for a source of comfort during my own family’s time of need. Two months ago, my dad was finally forced into treatment for his undiagnosed severe bipolar disorder and coexisting extreme alcoholism. My mother and I (I am an only child) have been trying unsuccessfully for years to get him help.

In order for him to finally be involuntary subjected to treatment, he had to have a major traumatic psychotic episode. He had a previous psychotic episode earlier this year that landed him in a mental health facility for one week. But the latest one proved even more traumatic to all of us.

Click to continue…

Suicide By Fairfax Officer Prompts Chief Roessler To Combat “Silent Epidemic”

(9-17-18) It takes courage to speak out.

The unborn baby was dead. Twelve weeks old.

The mother stopped sleeping, became depressed.

The frantic call came on a Friday.

She had ended her life in the garage of their home.

Her husband began drinking whiskey as the “battle between demons” waged in his head.

One afternoon, he stopped in a church parking lot and lifted a handgun to his head. They had two small daughters.

He put the gun down. “I don’t know what stopped me.”

What makes this suicide story unique is that the husband is a Fairfax County Police Officer and so was his wife – the mother who tragically ended her life.

Click to continue…

Andrew Goldstein’s Actions Led To Kendra’s Law, Still A Lightening Rod In Mental Health Circles

Q & A With Controversial Mental Health Advocate D. J. Jaffe: A Self-Made Influential Player In Washington

(9-13-18) In the past decade, D. J. Jaffe has emerged as an influential player. He is frequently quoted in newspapers, including yesterday’s New York Times and this week’s New York Magazine. Despite his criticism of mental health providers – – as outlined in his book, INSANE CONSEQUENCES:  How the Mental Health Industry Fails the Mentally Ill –  Jaffe was invited to give a Ted Talk at the National Council for Behavioral Health’s national convention in 2017.

Once active in the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the Treatment Advocacy Center, Jaffe created his own website and organization called Mental Illness Policy. Org., which he now uses as his base.

Jaffe has garnered his share of detractors as well as fans. His ideas are frequently opposed by peer advocates and consumer groups. You might remember that Jaffe was the most vocal of a so-called Focus On Serious Mental Illness platform – four candidates – who ran unsuccessfully for the  NAMI board. He is characterized by some NAMI leaders as a “perpetual bomb thrower” whose primary focus is on Assistant Outpatient Treatment. I recently learned that he had helped scuttle a planned SAMHSA expert panel because he objected to the individuals who SAMHSA had invited to present.

So who is this pony-tailed controversial advocate?  I decided to ask him a series of questions via email.

Click to continue…

Judge Steve Leifman Wins National Award For Getting Individuals With Serious Mental Illnesses Into Treatment, Not Jail

For the past decade, Miami-Dade County Judge Steve Leifman has fought to get treatment for people with mental illness and keep them from ending up in jail.

(9-12-18) Miami-Dade Florida Judge Steve Leifman has won the Pardes Humanitarian Prize for his leadership in reducing inappropriate incarceration of individuals with mental illnesses.

Judge Leifman is a good friend and also the hero in my book, CRAZY: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness. I am delighted and hopeful that publicity about this honor will encourage other judges to become leaders in developing jail diversion, mental health dockets and increased community mental health services for those in need. Are you listening judges, prosecutors and politicians in Virginia?

Arrests in Miami Dade have decreased from 118,000 to 56,000 annually and recidivism has dropped by almost 50 percent. The jail population plunged from 7,300 to 4,000 inmates, closing a jail and generating $12 million in annual savings. Crime and burdens on taxpayers have been reduced, and public health, safety and recovery outcomes have improved.

Click to continue…