"If we erase a Palace, there's no doubt that the person's distorted desires will be erased as well. But desires are what we need in order to survive. The will to sleep, eat, fall in love-those sorts of things... If all of those yearnings were to vanish, they'd be no different than someone who has shut down entirely. They may even die if they're not given proper care."
A mental shutdown is a major plot element in Persona 5.
- Persona 5 / Royal
A mental shutdown occurs an unspecified amount of time after a person's Shadow Self is destroyed in the Metaverse. The reason for this is that a Shadow Self is made up of the original person's desires, including the desires for normal life functions such as eating, sleeping, and emotions such as love. Therefore, a destroyed Shadow will cause a mental shutdown after a period of time, although if the target went through a Change of Heart right before one, it will resemble a normal Change of Heart before the mental shutdown takes place in earnest. It is the more extreme form of a Psychotic breakdown, although unlike the breakdowns, the ability is not exclusive to Goro Akechi's Persona, Loki. Instead, anyone who kills a Shadow Self will cause their real-life counterpart to enter a mental shutdown. The Phantom Thieves avoid this by inducing the Change of Heart only after suppressing the Shadow Self without killing it.
A mental shutdown causes one to undergo symptoms similar to a sudden heart attack. Their eyes also roll into the back of their heads and they secrete a black liquid from their mouths. Mental shutdowns have a high chance of ending in death, particularly if the victim has other risk factors, such as advanced age.
A Persona user cannot be affected by a mental shutdown, as they do not have Shadows.
Two years before the events of Persona 5, the first Metaverse-related incidents begin to arise, starting from Goro Akechi being given a Persona and the Wild Card ability by the master of Mementos, who used him to instigate chaos among the public. To his superior, Masayoshi Shido, this was merely a source of profit and his primary way of disposing anyone who might oppose or disobey him.
After learning about Wakaba Isshiki's research, an "Antisocial Force" led by Shido learned of her research on cognitive psience. Teaching his illegitimate son Akechi about the Metaverse, he triggers a mental shutdown in Wakaba, causing her to fall in front of a car. He then played off her death as a suicide, driven by her resentment of her daughter, Futaba. This caused Futaba to develop depression and visual/audio hallucinations, as well as becoming a reclusive shut-in. She repressed the memories of Wakaba's symptoms until seeing Kunikazu Okumura's own mental shutdown. Futaba knew nothing of Shido's role behind it before Okumura's death and meeting the IT Company President's Shadow Self in Shido's Palace.
After this, Akechi started a string of mental shutdowns for Shido's political gains, such as killing anyone Shido deemed incompetent. Akechi was also hired by Shido's political opposition (such as Okumura) as well, in exchange for Okumura financing Shido's endeavors. Higher ranking members of Shido's antisocial force also paid Shido to have Akechi induce mental shutdowns in anyone they wanted in exchange for giving Shido funds or noble connections, turning it into an industry. Akechi would then usually "solve" the case he committed himself as a cover-up, propelling himself to being touted as the "second coming of the Detective Prince." The general public is left in the dark about the methods and purpose behind these incidents, preventing anyone from ever opposing Shido in fear of being affected themselves.
In reality, Akechi only began killing to ensure Shido is inaugurated as Prime Minister, where he then would ruin Shido's career by exposing his own illegitimacy.
The first mental shutdown seen happens to a subway conductor, resulting in a catastrophic accident. The attack was ordered by politician Ooe in order to take down a CEO and a diplomat siding with the current government, also done with the intent of discrediting the current ministry of transport. The driver of the train can be seen suddenly falling blank and collapsing. Because the driver stopped driving the train, it went out of control and crashed into a platform, wounding and possibly killing many within it. Furthermore, it induced a traffic jam that got in the way of Sojiro and the protagonist when they were driving to Aoyama-Itchome.
While it did not happen in this case, Morgana warns the protagonist, Ryuji Sakamoto, and later Ann Takamaki about the possibility of causing a mental shutdown when discussing the idea of removing Suguru Kamoshida's Treasure and "distorted desires", as he never had caused a Change of Heart before. Later, after Junya Kaneshiro's Shadow mentioning someone in a black mask using Palace for their own gain, including triggering mental shutdowns, the Phantom Thieves of Hearts take heed of his warnings.
However, due to having their major financial pillars uprooted by the Phantom Thieves, Shido's Antisocial Force begins to target them. The plan to end the Phantom Thieves started with a fake Medjed threat to induce a false popularity increase on the Phantom Aficionado Website via a grossly inflated view counter, then prod the Phantom Thieves into a heist against Kunikazu Okumura, an overly ambitious CEO who was attempting to compete with Shido for presidency. It was revealed that Okumura used the Black Mask's services to induce mental shutdowns against his disloyal board members and competition outside of his company, all of them who supposedly suffered from mental illnesses. The Antisocial Force aims to trigger multiple mental shutdowns to frame the Phantom Thieves for Akechi's past and future actions, to reduce their popularity, and to kill Okumura, who would have revealed the person behind the mental shutdowns if he had a change of heart. The decision also partially stems from that Okumura was the only candidate for prime minister capable of acting as an obstacle to Masayoshi Shido.
In advance, Principal Kobayakawa (because of his failure to figure out which students caused Kamoshida's change in heart at Shujin Academy, his predicted attempt to ask the police for help, and the implication that the party was the reason why he was principal in the first place) was subjected to a mental shutdown leaving the police building and ran over by a oncoming truck in his disabled state, with a fake Calling Card planted in his office to frame the Phantom Thieves. When Okumura was defeated in the heist, Akechi in his "black mask" outfit triggers a fatal mental shutdown in him by killing his Shadow Self directly after the Phantom Thieves stole his Treasure, killing him exactly before he could expose the leader of the Conspiracy. It was also implied that there are plans of eventually triggering another mental shutdown in prosecutor Sae Niijima, who was pursuing the case as well and had obvious second thoughts about her bosses, as she noticed the possibility of a group separate from the Phantom Thieves.
After the police raid on the Phantom Thieves in Sae Niijima's Palace, should the protagonist successfully survive the interrogation and return to the present, the Antisocial Force falsely assumes that he was killed by Goro Akechi. Having been confident that the Phantom Thieves case is solved for good, the Conspiracy betrays the SIU Director and he was subjected to a mental shutdown as well.
After Akechi was defeated in Shido's Palace, and subjected to an ambiguous end, Shido's change of heart and subsequent confession, and the defeat of Yaldabaoth that removed the Metaverse Navigator and so access to the Metaverse, it became impossible to commit mental shutdowns.
Persona 5 Strikers
While not an element on itself, when the Phantom Thieves confirm that Alice Hiiragi was mass inducing Change of Hearts to raise her popularity to unnatural levels and physically attacking and humiliating her manager in a rather blatant fashion, Sophia suggests that if there are no treasures for the Thieves to steal, they should just kill her Shadow. The Phantom Thieves vehemently reject this advice in fear of inducing a mental shutdown.
- Wakaba Isshiki
- Kunikazu Okumura
- SIU Director
- Kayo Murakami (partner of Ichiko Ohya who attempted to expose Shido's crimes)