Mt. Vernon Register-News

Opinion

November 15, 2013

No one is disposable

‘He was just kind of left by himself,” a friend of Richard Shoop commented to reporters.

I never met Shoop, but I nearly ran into him a few nights ago at a Nordstrom in Paramus, N.J. He had just shot a rifle in the air there, starting a mass panic and police lockdown that ended in Shoop committing suicide. Like every other customer and worker in the mall at the time of the incident, I’m unharmed — Shoop evidently wasn’t prepared to hurt anyone but himself. I just can’t get Shoop off my mind.

Based on the media testimony of family and friends, Shoop seemed like he was trying to be functional. He went to work and lived his life. But he would fall into addiction, violence and confusion. And he’s not alone.

In her book “Men on Strike,” Dr. Helen Smith writes that in 2010, more than 38,000 people killed themselves in the United States — more than 30,000 of them men. Why would Shoop choose to terrorize a mall before taking his own life? Perhaps because we don’t notice people until they do something really crazy.

“People care almost as little about suicide in young men as they do about men in general, which is to say, not a lot,” Smith, also the author of “Scarred Heart,” a book about teens who kill. She adds: “In a world where everyone is so busy and the culture full of hostility for men and boys — their inner psychological life is taboo unless it conforms to the societal ideal ... Add to this a constant barrage of cable news giving media time to mass shooters over and over, and it is little wonder that a confused young man thinks that the way to gain recognition and attention to his plight is by a public display of suicide, or worse, harming others.”

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