Son's death shows limits of leaders' personal influence

Monday, April 8, 2013

Pastor Rick Warren delivered the invocation at President Obama's first inauguration in 2009, oversees a church of 20,000 attendance in California, is a best-selling author and has drawn criticism for his views on controversial subjects like same-sex marriage and abortion, as well as some of his methods of ministry.

Word that his youngest son had died from suicide at 27, however, is a sober reminder that the most powerful and influential among us are limited in our ability to influence and control the thoughts of even those closest to us.

Matthew Warren, 27, committed suicide "in a momentary wave of despair" at the end of a lifetime struggle "with mental illness, dark holes of depression and even suicidal thoughts," Warren wrote to his church staff.

"Matthew was an incredibly kind, gentle and compassionate young man whose sweet spirit was encouragement and comfort to many," a statement from the church said. "Unfortunately, he also suffered from mental illness resulting in deep depression and suicidal thoughts. Despite the best health care available, this was an illness that was never fully controlled, and the emotional pain resulted in his decision to take his life."

But we shouldn't be discouraged by Matthew's famility's inability to keep him from making the ultimate mistake, and should take action when we see the following suicide risk warning signs:

* Threatening to hurt or kill him or herself, or talking of wanting to hurt or kill him/herself.

* Looking for ways to kill him/herself by seeking access to firearms, available pills.

* Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide, when these actions are out of the ordinary.

* Increased substance (alcohol or drug) use.

* Feelings of no reason for living; no sense of purpose in life.

* Anxiety, agitation, unable to sleep or sleeping all the time

* Feeling trapped -- like there's no way out

* Hopelessness

* Withdrawal from friends, family and society

* Rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge

* Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking

* Dramatic mood changes.

If you see these signs in a friend or loved one, seek help as soon as possible by contacting a mental health professional or calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for a referral.

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