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Additionally, the Affordable Care Act ensures mental health and addiction will be treated no differently than other medical issues by insurance companies, but since 94 percent of mental health providers offer non-medical treatment, in reality, mental health parity does not exist, he said.

Among the Ruins

Warren told CT in a pre-event interview that when he and Kay launched Saddleback's ministry to people living with HIV/AIDS 12 years ago, he thought the disease was probably the "last taboo." But an outpouring of empathetic responses to their public grieving convinced him that the "silence" around mental illness had to be confronted as a taboo.

Matthew was diagnosed with clinical depression at age seven, Warren said in that interview. He had only been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder a short time before he died.

In her conference testimony, Kay Warren compared the devastation she felt when Matthew died to the consciousness-awakening devastation she experienced around HIV/AIDS and orphan care. "This time there was nothing glorious about being ruined. In the aftermath of his death, there were moments when I thought I couldn't take the next breath, moments in which I said, 'I am ruined forever,'" Kay Warren said.

That wasn't the end of her story, though.

"God is not helpless among the ruins," Kay Warren said, quoting British Olympian and missionary Eric Liddell. Then she instructed attendees to turn to one another and take those words to heart by declaring: "God is not helpless among my ruins!" Half of registrants were family members of someone suffering a mental illness, Warren said.

Bittersweet Redemption

"To be able to speak publicly, to call the church to action … it's a bittersweet moment," Kay Warren told reporters. (CT's interview with Kay Warren ran Friday.)

"We had hoped this would be one of those moments that we shared with our son, that he would be one of those lucky few who find a way to manage their illness, that he would be by our side as we talked, for the rest of our lives, about caring for people with mental illness.… That is not the way it turned out," she said.

Seeing good come out of such devastation is bittersweet. When she was done speaking to reporters, Kay Warren looked in my direction and shouted above the lingering crowd, "I want to give you a hug, Christine."

I'm not exactly sure how she knew who I was, but we held each other tightly for what felt like a long time.

"I'm so sorry about Gabriel," she whispered.

"I've been praying for you," I replied. "It does get better."

"I'm believing that," she said.

Christine Scheller is a frequent contributor to Christianity Today.

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