Rev. Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church (Don Bartletti / Los Angeles…)
Famed pastor Rick Warren took to social media to thank the public of for its support in the wake of his son Matthew Warren's suicide and announced an effort to help bring awareness to mental illness.
Warren said he and his wife want to "end the of mental illness." He added in a tweet: "We've known for years God would use us to fight mental illness but were protecting Matthew's right to share his own story."
Warren also talked of seeing his son's body for the first time Tuesday and said he was overwhelmed by the support his family has received.
Matthew Warren, 27, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the Orange County coroner said Monday.
On Saturday, Warren's emotional message to his congregation paid tribute to his son, who he said died after battling mental illness.
"Today after a fun evening together with Kay and me, in a momentary wave of despair at his home, he took his own life," Warren said.
The death of Matthew Warren at his home on Pradera Drive in Mission Viejo was reported to Orange County Sheriff’s Department officials about 5:25 p.m. Friday, said Supervising Deputy Coroner Dan Aikin.
In his statement to his congregation, Warren talked about how "only those closest knew that [Matthew] struggled from birth with mental illness, dark holes of depression, even suicidal thoughts."
He described his son as a "kind, gentle and compassionate man" with a "brilliant intellect" who was sensitive to the needs of others.
"Kay and I often marveled at his courage to keep moving in spite of his relentless pain. I'll never forget how, many years ago, after another approach had failed to give relief, Matthew said: 'Dad, I know I'm going to heaven. Why can't I just die and end this pain?' But he kept going for another decade."
Among those offering condolences was Harvest Christian Fellowship leader Greg Laurie, who tweeted followers to join him in a prayer for Warren and his wife.
Laurie, whose adult son Christopher was killed in a 2008 car crash, noted on his blog that he had experienced similar pain. "At times like these, there really are no words, but there is the Word," he wrote.
The Christian Post reported that Laurie was joined in condolences by a host of other religious leaders, including Will Graham, the grandson of the Rev. Billy Graham.
The elder Warren is the bestselling author of "The Purpose-Driven Life." He delivered the invocation at President Obama's inauguration in 2008.
Warren said it's been difficult to deal with some of the hate mail and online comments he's read since announcing Saturday that his son had committed suicide.
"Grieving is hard. Grieving as public figures, harder. Grieving while haters celebrate your pain, hardest," Warren wrote on Facebook on Monday night.
Hikers reported missing in Eaton Canyon are found unharmed
Mexican police search Tijuana home for Northridge kidnap suspect
Pilot error caused tanker collision with Bay Bridge, state board says