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Making meaning out of Matthew Warren’s suicide

Making meaning out of Matthew Warren’s suicide

When the sad news broke that Matthew Warren, 27, the youngest son of Pastor Rich Warren committed suicide, people began to immediately assign meaning to his death. Some of it was ugly and some of it compassionate.

While this process happens in every family when tragedy strikes, when it happens to the family of a public figure it automatically causes us to look at the “big” issues.

Jana Reiss blogs that maybe we are seeing a shift in how we think about mental health.

My heart … breaks for the Warren family, and my prayers are with them as they seek to pick up the pieces of this devastating loss. As I have followed the story, I’ve been bracing myself for evidence of ignorant trolls who blame the Warrens for their son’s death.

I haven’t seen much of that, however (despite some invasive rumormongers and the usual minority voices casting stones about the eternal fate of people who commit suicide). Instead I have seen mostly messages of compassion. Over the weekend Rev. Warren said that he was overwhelmed by loving messages, letters, and notes from people praying for their family.

It may be that our nation’s awareness of mental illness is changing. On Sunday at (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) General conference, one of the most uplifting messages was from President Dieter Uchtdorf, whose theme was finding light in the darkness. He gave an example of a woman recovering from abuse. In her search for healing, he said, she sought medical help and counseling in addition to relying on her faith to shore her up. Such a simple thing, but I appreciated the matter-of-fact way Pres. Uchtdorf pointed to faith and professional treatment working hand-in-hand for a successful outcome….

…For millions of people — those who suffer from mental illness and those who love them – honest acknowledgment of their struggle goes a long way toward removing the stigma and healing the pain.

This weekend, in reaching out to the Warren family without judgment or censure, our nation may have turned a corner in that effort.

Pastor Warren may have inadvertantly politicized the news when he revealed that his son used a gun purchased over the internet.


High-profile Pastor Rick Warren tweeted Thursday that his son who shot himself late last week had bought an “unregistered gun” from “someone over the internet.”

“I pray he seeks God’s forgiveness,” wrote Warren, a best-selling author and the head of Saddleback Church, referring to whoever sold his son the gun. “I forgive him.”

Law enforcement authorities have the gun they believe Matthew Warren used to kill himself, according to Orange County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Jim Amormino.

Amormino said he could not say from where, or whom, the 27-year-old got the weapon. But he did confirm the gun was not registered, adding that its serial number had been scratched off.

“(The fact) the serial number is scratched off … is going to make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to trace,” Amormino said.

The AP says it’s “illegal in California to buy a gun without a background check and purchasers are supposed to register their firearms. Defacing a gun’s serial number is a federal offense.”


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