April 27, 2011

Sweet to the Soul

A few weeks ago it seemed that American actor Charlie Sheen’s outrageous rants could be seen and heard everywhere. Curious, I watched his 20/20 interview on national network ABC’s Internet site. The brash, outlandish things he said had me thinking about mental illness. I don’t know if Sheen’s behavior was all an act, but I do know that the taped interview was frighteningly sad.        
Mental illness isn’t reserved for one single type of person. The Sheen saga brought to mind the struggles of an acquaintance from college, someone who had reached out to me recently—right before Christmas, in fact. In the past few years, I was told, this person spiraled down into depression, paranoia, and manic behavior. It wasn’t something that happened overnight, but the sickness finally fractured their mind, and a couple months ago they were found in a river. The cause of death was listed as suicide.
I feel sorrow for this individual—and for any family they might have left behind. And while I know I wasn’t the cause, I feel a bit of guilt—should I, upon receiving their letter (which in itself was a scary, garbled cry for help), have done more? A call to the church pastor? Instead of asking someone to ask people in that area to check on the person, should I have actually followed up with local members? Maybe—and I will think about this for a long time to come.
I have also recognized the need for me to be kinder and gentler with people, for I don’t know what they might be suffering with on the inside. While I realize it is not a cure-all, I have made the effort to follow the advice of Proverbs 12:18 and 16:24. Kind words can be “sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”
Kimberly Luste Maran is an assistant editor of the Adventist Review. This article was published April 28, 2011.