A Lesson from the Senseless Easter Shooting(s)

Easter Sunday is usually known as a joyous time where families come together to wear their “Sunday’s Best” to stunt on everyone in the House of the Lord. It’s a day where plastic eggs are filled with chocolate and scattered throughout the home, park, or church for children to find and enjoy a nice treat. Historically, Easter is the day to recognize the resurrection of Jesus Christ and is considered one of the holiest days of the year. However, Easter 2017, will be remembered as the day I saw a man get shot in the head by Steve Stephens. While working on my final paper of the semester in a coffee shop, I came across an alert on my phone that said that there was a gunman in the Cleveland area who apparently killed 13 people (still being verified). Of course, I did my research to see what was happening and gather more information about the situation at hand. I clicked on a very underrated news source (WorldStarHipHop)  and saw the suspect in question, Mr. Steve Stephens.

Mr. Stephens posted a lengthy video detailing how he felt misunderstood and his rationale for committing these heinous acts (because of a not-so-successful relationship with an ex-girlfriend and actions from his mother). His mother didn’t take him seriously when he told her that he wanted to commit suicide and felt that other people took him for granted. He videotaped himself outside of the workplace of his ex-girlfriend and said that his mission was to go in there to kill as many people as possible. He noted how he tried to talk to people about his feelings and they weren’t taking him seriously, so the only course of action was to kill others.

Apparently, Mr. Stephens reached his “breaking point” with life after saying that he’s tired and lost everything to gambling. To make matters worst, he said that he’d start targeting Greeks (come to find out, he’s a member of a fraternity) and shoot them in the head until he was caught and put on death row . Later in the video, you can overhear him talking on the phone with someone (possibly a fraternity brother) about how he brought shame to his organization, chapter, and himself. Most surprising, he expressed his discontent with his friend about his issues and how he felt that he was being blown off and built in frustration every time that he’d go to them. As the video continues, you can see that Mr. Stephens is mentally gone and has a lot of hurt inside of him. It seems like he’s remorseful at various points in the video, but what was most despicable? He shot a random, 74 year old man at point blank range for no reason after having the man say the name of his ex-girlfriend…all on Facebook Live (I refuse to link this video for your own self-care). The interview from his family on the local news had my heart hurting with grief and sadness. Again, the cause for all of this? A failed relationship with his ex-girlfriend and feeling as though his mother wasn’t listening to his pleas for help. He said that he wouldn’t stop until he spoke to either one of the aforementioned women.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: MENTAL HEALTH IS A REAL THING and we need to take care of it just like we take care of our valuables! The 9 minute video that I saw really seemed like a man that’s been seeking help for a long time and finally hit a place where he could take no more. As an educator, I do believe that every moment is an opportunity for progression and learning, and as tragic as this is, there’s a lesson in this situation. As a community, we need to really encourage one another to seek help when needed, instead of always brushing it off as a call for attention or not listening. We are in a time where people are battling some serious demons and most of us don’t even know it. Some of our spouses, best friends, siblings, and/or coworkers are experiencing some traumatic moments in their lives right now that we probably don’t even know about because a space hasn’t been made for sharing on that level. It’s only when something unexpected happens that we tend to pay attention or create the space necessary for open dialogue. That’s like getting your oil change only after you run out of oil and your car isn’t working properly!

I’m a strong proponent for counseling/therapy after committing to going once a month at the end of 2016. I get looks from some people when I tell them and their immediate comment, is usually: “what’s wrong?”  when in actuality, I’m taking care of myself. This world will really try to break your mind, body, and spirit and I refuse to succumb to it without a fight. As I mentioned in another space, I know that counseling is expensive and  is honestly a privilege to be able to attend, however there are free counseling options that I feel can help one in the midst of mental instability:

a) https://www.7cups.com/qa/

b) https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org

c) https://www.iprevail.com/chat_landing

These are free resources that an individual can utilize, yet I feel that nothing compares to seeing someone in person. If you’re working full time, check your benefits package to see if you healthcare insurance covers some of your visits  or lowers your co-pay. If today taught me anything, it’s hug your loved ones a little tighter, seek help, and have faith despite what’s in front of you.

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