'Purpose Driven Life' author's son kills himself; parents shouldn't blame themselves

Pastor Rick Warren - AP Photo
For  someone who has found the meaning of life, his son obviously did not.

Pastor Rick Warren, author of the book "Purpose Driven Life," recently had something happen to him that turned his life upside-down. His son Matthew, 27, took his life by a self-inflicted gun shot wound.

I have heard people criticize Warren because of this – judging him for being at the center of a network of seven California worship campuses, but not being able to help his own son.

For instance, on a USA Today story, a commenter from Cincinnati said, "Either there is no God, or God doesn't listen to Rick Warren, despite all the money Rick has
made off of selling false hope to desperate people."

Matthew Warren - AP Photo
Seeing this made me sick. Obviously, people don't understand what depression is.

I can't even imagine what a parent must be going through -- the constantly rehashing of different scenarios, thinking, "What could I have done to save him or her?"

First of all, you are not responsible for the decisions of someone else, including your son or daughter. Many times, people are so good at hiding their depression that not even those closest to them cannot see the signs. 

One crisis intervention counselor said, "There are not always clear cut signs that someone is going to commit suicide.  They may seem completely happy and optimistic but be so deep in denial and depression that one day just makes them snap."

Also, a child is not at home 24/7. Parents cannot be everywhere and keep their child safe from everything.

The only way to really guarantee the safety of a child is to keep him and her in a bubble-wrap room, constantly keeping tabs on him or her. But what kind of life would this be?

As a child gets older, peers have more and more of an effect, and less and less do they act based on their parents' influence. For Matthew Warren, who knows what was going on outside of the home? Who knows how others treated him? Or how he, internally, felt about himself? There are so many other factors, factors we will probably never know about, that cause suicide — most of which have nothing to do with parents.

Also, if someone has problems producing serotonin in the brain, no matter how you were raised, this still happens. Depression is a disease. Just as much as you cannot prevent your child from being diagnosed with cancer, you also cannot prevent this.

But, if your child has lost his or her life to suicide, you can move forward.  You can help others.

That is what Warren is doing. He is launching a "Mental Illness Ministry" following his son's suicide — seeking to support those who suffer from mental illness. He is working with his wife to urge educations, lawmakers, healthcare professionals and church congregations to raise awareness and lower the stigma of mental illness.

So, stop blaming yourself, and instead use your experiences to help others.

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