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'It's not a sin to be sick': Rick Warren condemns stigma around poor mental health

by Tola Mbakwe

Addressing the African Biblical Leadership Initiative conference in Kigali, Rwanda on Friday, he spoke movingly about the death by suicide of his son Matthew six years ago after a lifetime's battle with depression and the support that he and his wife Kay had received.

He recalled discussing his son's acute mental distress with him and having to tell him there were some problems that had to be managed for a lifetime.

"What do you do with a problem or trauma that can't be totally healed?" he asked his audience.

"You have to manage it. This is why we pray, 'Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven'.

"Because in heaven God's will is done perfectly, completely, instantly, and automatically. On earth none of that's true. God's will is done imperfectly, incompletely, seldom, and often erratically. This is not heaven. Everything on this planet is broken."

The pastor of Saddleback Church in California added: "If my heart doesn't work right, I take a pill for it and there's no shame in that.

"If my spleen doesn't work right and I have diabetes I take a pill for that and there's no shame in that.

"If my brain doesn't work right and I have mental illness and I take a pill for that, why should I be ashamed of that?

"We need to remove the stigma of mental illness. It's not a sin to be sick, and the Church should be saying that more than anybody else."

In his powerful address to delegates from churches, politics and civil society, he called on leaders to change the world and defeat the five 'Goliaths' of conflict, corruption, poverty, poor health and no opportunity.

Saddleback Church has pioneered its PEACE plan throughout the world – Planting churches, Equipping leaders, Assisting the poor, Caring for the sick and Educating the next generation.

Warren told the audience: 'The Church is bigger than China and Europe and the US put together.

"We have the largest army in the world. Hundreds of millions of people volunteer in church every day as an army of love.

"No government, no army comes close to the power, talent and resources that are in one out of every three people on the planet."

If this is a topic you want help with, the Premier Lifeline, a national Christian helpline is open 9am to midnight every day on 0300 111 0101.

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