A nationwide manhunt for Steve Stephens ends in suicide. The 37-year-old Cleveland man shot and killed a stranger randomly and then uploaded the despicable video to Facebook. During another Facebook Live Video rant, Stephens blamed the senseless murder on a recent breakup with his girlfriend and losing “everything” to gambling. As a case manager at a children’s mental health facility, the Facebook Live shooter confirms mental illness is not always dressed as crazy.
After paralyzing Cleveland residents in fear on Easter Sunday, the coward managed to circumvent law enforcement. Missing for three days, Stephens lifeless body was located 100 miles from Cleveland in Erie, Pa. Police do not know if his claim of other victims is true or if he has left new victims in his trail over that past few days. A spokesperson for Beech Brook, a behavior health agency that assists children, teens, and families, confirmed that Stephens was one of its employees. She said:
We are shocked and horrified like everyone else. To think that one of our employees could do this is awful.
This type of crisis continues to plague people across the globe who live in fear wondering who the next victim of a senseless killing spree will be. Some blame mental illness and others maintain that it is the current state of affairs on gun laws. The reality is the crisis that terrorizes citizens could very well be a gray area that is a combination of both. Whichever side of the pendulum people’s opinion lies, the truth is, mental illness is not always dressed as crazy.
There are no absolutes in this narrative. There is a problem with loose gun laws and equally with mental illness. According to Carolyn Reinach Wolf, a New York lawyer who runs the only mental health legal practice in the nation that works with schools to identify “red flag behavior” among students, the political sector continues to miss the bigger picture by attempting to address gun laws as a standalone issue without addressing mental health. In order to expect change, the conversation must encompass both entities.
A mentally stable person does not walk around shooting innocent victims. Despite his current job at a behavioral health agency, Stephens was apparently dealing with some mental instability of his own. Confirming that mental illness is not always dressed as crazy, the Facebook shooter’s family and friends spoke well of him. When describing their relationship, the former girlfriend, Joy Lane, said:
We had been in a relationship for several years. I am sorry that all of this has happened. My heart & prayers go out to the family members of the victim(s). Steve really is a nice guy… he is generous with everyone he knows. He was kind and loving to me and my children.
Mental illness is a serious issue in America and across the globe. Although most believe that mental disorders only happen to “someone else,” they are, in fact, common and widespread. Due to the stigma that often accompanies mental health, people neglect the necessary help for fear of feeling vulnerable to the opinions and judgments of others.
When dealing with mental or emotional problems, it is important to remember there is hope and help. Mental illness is more common than many realize and there is no need for life to end senseless for innocent victims or to suicide. The signs may be subtle, yet many are recognizable. In a tragic loss of life, Facebook shooter, Steve Stephens, proves mental illness is not always dressed as crazy.
By Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
ABC News: Manhunt for Cleveland Facebook murder suspect expands to national search
LA Times: Facebook murder suspect shot himself to death after chase, police say
Mental Health America: Mental Illness and the Family
Top Image Courtesy of Cleveland Police Department – Wikimedia License
Inline Image Courtesy of Kiran Foster – Flickr License
Featured Image Courtesy of James Song – Flickr License