Judging from reports, it seems clear Shoop “was deeply unhappy” for presently unknown reasons, and appeared to want to kill himself in a dramatic way, Dr. Sally Satel, a staff psychiatrist at the Oasis Clinic in Washington, D.C., and author of many books on psychiatry, policy and treatment, comments.
“When people start talking about giving away their possessions and they already seem withdrawn and hint at killing themselves, you have to take that combination very seriously,” she cautions.
“My general advice to friends, family and co-workers is to take an interest, pay attention, and inquire when they see another person appearing to ‘drift’ in strange directions,” says Aaron Kheriaty, a clinical professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, Irvine, and lead author of “The Catholic Guide to Depression.”
“Make the effort to get to know the person a little bit, and then get below the surface chit-chat,” Dr. Kheriaty says. “If you simply take the trouble to ask with an attitude of wanting to assist, most people will open up. If they open up, then you can begin to build some trust. This does not need to take a long time. From there, a suggestion to seek help from a mental health professional is more likely to be well-received than if it came at the person out of the blue.”
Shortly after Shoop had been found dead, a picture of Pope Francis embracing the severely disfigured head of a man with a genetic disorder went viral, capturing the public imagination with the possibilities of love, of real encounters with one another, beyond, as Kheriaty said, the superficial.
The pope has recently been talking about a throwaway culture where we treat people as if they are disposable; something in Shoop’s life — or a tempting darkness in his head, an ache in his heart — seems to have led him to believe that he was.