Rick Warren, bestselling author and pastor of an evangelical mega church in Orange County, preached for the first time on Sunday after his son's suicide.
Matthew Warren, 27, shot himself in the head in April following a long struggle with mental illness.
On Sunday, his father appeared in jeans and a black T-shirt in front of an estimated 10,000 congregants at his Saddleback Church in Lake Forest and vowed to fight prejudice against people with mental illnesses.
“It’s amazing to me that any other organ in your body can break down and there’s no shame and stigma to it," Warren said. "But if your brain breaks down you’re supposed to keep it a secret.”
On Monday, he tweeted: "I'm back. And fearless after months in God's presence."
A Southern Baptist who opened his church in Orange County in 1980, Warren delivered the invocation at President Obama's 2009 inauguration and is the author of "The Purpose Driven Life," which has sold tens of millions of copies.
After his son's suicide, Warren and his wife, Kay, launched a petition about mental illness urging "educators, lawmakers, healthcare professionals, and church congregations to raise the awareness and lower the stigma of mental illness."
“Matthew was just one of about 11.4 million American adults that suffered from severe mental illness in the past year,” the petition states. “In fact, one in five Americans experiences some sort of mental illness.”
Warren has taken to social media to grieve over the family's loss. The family also started a foundation on mental health in Matthew Warren’s name.