Police are searching for a man in Cleveland, Ohio who posted a series of disturbing Facebook videos on Easter Sunday, one of which showed him shooting and killing a man he simply saw walking down the street.
Before choosing his victim at random, he posted a video stating that he had “snapped” and was about to find people to kill.
Watching a man plot murder as if he were talking about the weather was terrifying. And I was disgusted by the fact that he placed blame on his mother and girlfriend for the atrocities he was about to commit – even making his victim say his girlfriend’s name before executing him.
But something else that concerned me about the videos were the man’s claims that he had tried to talk to people about how he was feeling and was brushed off.
He even claimed that the day prior he told him mother he was feeling suicidal and she shrugged him off.
Let me be clear: No one is to blame for what this man did but him. Not his mother. Not his girlfriend. Not his friends.
But let me also say this: Mental illness is real.
There is no way for me to know if what this man says is true. But I have seen people’s cries for help – including my own – brushed off and ignored.
In dark times of my life due to anxiety and depression, I’ve wondered how to go on – and if I even wanted to. I’m not one to come out and say, “Hey, I feel like killing myself.” But from the time I was young, I have had times where I expressed that I thought I was depressed, which no one ever treated as urgent or serious.
I recently decided for myself that I needed to seek treatment. At a time when I most needed support, people instead gave me advice on what kinds of treatment they thought I should get or not get – based on learned stereotypes and fears about mental illness and mental health treatments.
But not everyone is going to proactively seek help on their own. Sometimes people need someone to see the signs they are in trouble and lead them to the help they need. And that’s okay. It takes strength to admit that your mind is broken.
I don’t know what drove this man to commit murder and nothing that happened in his life excuses what he’s done. but I do know how prevalent mental illness is. It’s in our schools. In our prisons. And often undiagnosed.
And I do know that the stigma surrounding it makes people with mental disorders uncomfortable admitting it and makes those who don’t equally uncomfortable talking about it.
But this reinforces why it’s so important we talk about it. And it’s important to take people’s cries for help seriously and take action when necessary.
Some signs you can look for include:
- Changes in sleeping and eating habits
- Lost interest
- Changes in attitude
- Talking about or attempting suicide
- Off-hand or concerning comments
- Open admission that they think they have a problem
If you or someone you know shows the warning signs of suicide, seek help as soon as possible by contacting a medical or mental health professional, or by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).