Orange County Register | Most Influential 2016: Kay Warren

Age: 62

Role: Advocate for mental health awareness and outreach.

Bio: When Kay Warren’s son Matthew Warren ended his life by handgunon April 5, 2013, it was the hardest day of her life. Warren and her husband, Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, decided to channel their grief to help others struggling with mental illness.

Why she is an influencer: Warren has been at the forefront of the fight to eliminate the stigma of mental illness. Through her leadership, Saddleback Church this year hosted a conference to provide steps for clergy and mental health professionals to build a network of support for people living with, or who are affected by, mental illness. She also has worked with donors, agencies and hospital systems to rally around pediatric and adolescent mental health.

Biggest challenge: Regaining enthusiasm for life in the aftermath of her son’s suicide.

Thoughts on mental health: “If we can educate and knock down the stigma, we can connect people with resources and direct people to already-existing support groups. If we can be a connection and bring people to information, we will feel like we’ve done something. Mental illness is real.”

Inspiration: “God is at work in the ruins.”

Can’t live without: Her piano.

What’s next: In 2017, CHOC will open the first pediatric psychiatric in-patient beds in Orange County. Warren also wants to take piano lessons again.

Read more at Most Influential 2016: Kay Warren.