Pastor Rick Warren's son Matthew and suicide: A family tragedy

Matthew Warren's suicide was due to depression, not because he was gay. Photo: Rick and Matthew Warren

WASHINGTON, April 11, 2013 - “If you are chronically down, it’s a lifelong fight to keep from sinking.” Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation.

 Matthew Warren, son of Pastor Rick Warren, died from emotional pain, not from the self-inflicted bullet the autopsy shows. The fatal wound came from a cesspool of emotion and deep personal agony.

The internet yak-yak blaming of Matthew’s homosexuality or Rick Warren as Matthews’ source of pain is absurd and should stop immediately.

Those who spread such venom have absolutely no factual basis for their statements. Citing Leviticus will not serve to reinforce idiotic blogging.

It would appears Matthew may have suffered from Major Depressive Disorder (MDD).

The media uses the term ‘mentally ill’ at every turn, and many will now label Matthew as ‘mentally ill.’

The term ‘mentally ill’ is applicable if one exhibits abnormal behavior due to a brain disorder or personality disorder, and is usually associated with distress or mental disability and thoughts that affect thinking and feelings. By that criterion, then yes, Matthew was mentally ill.

A public singular misperception of ‘mentally ill’ is thinking someone hears voices from the CIA through a tooth cavity. Mental illness has significant range in definition and depression has quite a future in this world.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared depression as the world’s leading cause of disability by the year 2020 and one third of today’s world population has had symptoms at one time or another of what can be defined ‘mental illness.’

Matthew was not alone with his issue.

According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), MDD is chronic and disabling in the same fashion as diabetes. Mood swings, suicidal thoughts, a sad feeling that encompasses and floods one’s thoughts.  Approximately 60 percent of suicide victims have suffered MDD and about 3.4 percent of the population in the U.S. currently suffers from the illness. The figure is probably higher because males are reluctant to report depression.

The APA reports 51 percent of those suffering from MDD have a comorbidity or associated disorder, usually anxiety, defined by uneasiness, uncertainty, excessively worried and seemingly nervous.

Society has opined that the children of preachers or pastors — “pastor’s kids” or PKs — suffer stress from high expectations from the pastor-parent. They suggest these parents expect their offspring to represent a Deity and servant thereof in an adult fashion. The errors and mischief normally associated and accepted with children not related to religious professionals are denied those that are.

PKs often have their boundaries set for them and do not learn to set their own as they grow into adulthood. 

However, there are many advantages to being a PK. Parents often display greater levels of understanding, set respectable boundaries and teach discipline via religion.

Being a PK is not a psychologically recognized circumstance of suicide, as most pastors and preachers do not offer up adulterated Kool Aid. However, there are some circumstances where being raised by an overbearing religious zealot can be depressing and create anxiety in the same manner as being raised by any sort of overbearing zealot.

Matthew Warren, by most accounts, was gay. Also by most accounts, this did not alter his relationship with Rick Warren, who for all outward and reported appearances loved his son as any other and fought to save him from the dark, cold, grasping fingers of chronic depression.

Chronic depression is an illness, not a mood, and can disable and kill as any other chronic illness. Respect the Warrens as anyone else, as they mourn and grieve for their son. The negative internet chatter is abusive, uncalled for and collectively deranged.

There but for the grace of God go you and I.


Paul Mountjoy is a Virginia based writer and a member of the American Psychological Association and the Association for Psychological Science.



This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

More from Steps to Authentic Happiness via Positive Psychology
blog comments powered by Disqus


Please enable pop-ups to use this feature, don't worry you can always turn them off later.

Question of the Day
Photo Galleries
Popular Threads
Powered by Disqus