Kay Warren—co-founder of Saddleback Church in southern California with husband Rick Warren—candidly expressed the pain she and her family experienced following their son's suicide last year during Saturday's Peace of Mind Tyler Conference.
The faith leader spoke, sometimes behind tears, about her son's battle with mental illness while providing biblical references in how the family dealt with the grief.
The Warrens' son, Matthew, took his life in April 2013. He experienced two decades of the "torment, torture and agony" of mental illness, Mrs. Warren said.
She said her son was more than a statistic that represented one in the 39,000 who took their life last year.
He was funny, artistic, smart and passionate about social causes, including the plights of orphans and modern slaves, she said.
Early in life, Warren suffered from panic attacks and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
He was initially diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but later with borderline personality disorder.
She described the last five years of her son's life as "hell." It included hospitalizations, failed suicide attempts and arrests because of the "crime of being depressed."
"April 5 of last year is the day he couldn't fight any longer," she said. "Death became his highest goal. He just wanted to be rid of the pain."
Warren first spoke of suicide on Mother's Day at age 12.
"He asked if I'd kill him to put him out of his misery," Mrs. Warren recounted. "Mothers shouldn't hear words like that, but on Mother's Day, it was traumatic."
She also shared how she desperately sought help from medical professionals, books and other resources, and noting that she "needed something stronger spiritually." She offered hope to others who may also experience mental illness.
"Life doesn't' make sense but we can have peace because God is with us and loves us," she said.
Mrs. Warren is the author of "Choose Joy: Because Happiness Isn't Enough" and "Say Yes to God." She's also an advocate for those living with HIV and AIDS.
See more from Kay Warren and other Peace of Mind Tyler attendees in a video at tylerpaper.com.