(CNN) — One of the worst nightmares a parent can experience is outliving a child.
Kay Warren knows this all too well. Her son Matthew died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in April 2013.
However, in the aftermath of the unthinkable, Warren’s biggest heartbreak became her greatest calling.
In 1980, along with her husband, Rick, Warren co-founded Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. Since then, Saddleback has grown to become one of the largest churches in the United States. With 12 locations in California and four internationally, thousands of members and more than 200 ministries, the church’s reach and community are extensive.
Matthew was born and raised amid this backdrop. He was diagnosed with clinical depression at age 7.
Warren candidly says her son suffered for a long time because she and her husband had a tough time understanding and accepting the diagnosis. His illness, however, was not asymptomatic.
“There are signs that show a child is struggling,” she recalls. “Somehow, we missed it.”
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five teens ages 13-18 live with a serious mental illness. Despite this high rate,
Warren says the faith community has traditionally treated the subject as taboo. She characterizes this as a “tragic misunderstanding” and says this has led many to think of those struggling with mental health as being weak, having a character flaw or lacking spiritual faith.
Read more at Mom finds new calling after son’s suicide.