Rick Warren working to end stigma around mental health

Pastor Rick Warren's son Matthew struggled with mental illness for many years before taking his life in April 2013AP

Pastor Rick and Kay Warren of Saddleback Church, the Most Reverend Kevin Vann, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness-Orange County (NAMI-OC) are joining together to host The Gathering on Mental Health and the Church on March 28 at Saddleback Church in Southern California.

The Gathering on Mental Health and the Church is designed to encourage individuals living with mental illness, educate family members, and equip church leaders to provide effective and compassionate care to anyone facing the challenges of mental illness.

"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 realise they are not alone in dealing with mental illness."

This event marks the first initiative in the Warrens' mission to remove the stigma of mental illness following the April 5 passing of their son Matthew, who struggled with mental illness.

"Any other part of the body, you can have it hurt and there is no shame in it," said Rick Warren. "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.

The first place many go for help is to their faith leader.

"As a Catholic community of faith we are blessed to join with the Warren family, NAMI-OC and the Saddleback community in co-hosting this important gathering," said Bishop Vann.

"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."

More information and tickets are available here

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