September 17th, 2013
08:40 AM ET
Lake Forest, California (CNN) - Rick and Kay Warren stood outside their son's home, sobbing in each other's arms.
They had talked Matthew, 27, off the ledge many times. But not this time.
A nod from a police officer who inspected Matthew's house confirmed their worst fears.
“I just hit the ground,” Kay Warren said.
On April 5, Matthew Warren killed himself with a gun after a lifelong battle with mental illness.
“The day that I had feared might happen one day, since he had been born, and the day that I had prayed would never happen … happened,” Rick Warren told CNN's Piers Morgan in an exclusive interview.
For the first time since Matthew Warren's death on April 5, Rick and Kay Warren are speaking out about his troubled life, how the tragedy changed their faith and their new mission to draw attention to mental illness.
The full interview aired Tuesday night on CNN’s "Piers Morgan Live" at 9 pm ET.
In 1980, Rick and Kay Warren founded Saddleback Church, now one of the largest in America, in Orange County, California. Twelve years later, Warren published "The Purpose Driven Life," a runaway best-seller that catapulted the pastor into stardom.
At the same time, though, their son Matthew Warren struggled with borderline personality disorder and deep depression for much of his life, the Warrens told CNN.
He had a loving family and access to mental health care, but not even that could spare him, they said.
Matthew was a young man with a "tender heart and tortured mind," Rick Warren said.
“If love could have kept my child alive, he'd be alive today, because he was incredibly loved,” he added.
The Warrens also spoke during the interview about how their son's death has affected their Christian faith.
“I never questioned my faith in God; I questioned God’s plan,” Rick Warren said. “God isn’t to blame for my son’s death. My son took his life. It was his choice.”
Slightly more than half of Americans – 53% – think that churches should do more to prevent suicide in America, according to a new poll by LifeWay Research, a Christian company based in Nashville.
Evangelicals and other Americans appear to disagree, however, about using religion to overcome mental illness, according to the LifeWay poll, which surveyed some 1,000 Americans and was released on Monday.
Nearly half of evangelicals, 48%, say that people with serious mental illnesses like depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia can be cured by Bible study and prayer alone. Sixty percent of Americans overall disagree.
The Warrens want to spread the word that even though their story had a tragic ending, “there’s hope,” Kay Warren said during the interview with CNN.
“It’s so important that people know, no matter how desperate their despair, there is hope, and not to give up.”
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.