Autospsy.docx - The Psychological Autopsy Shneidman(1987...

Info icon This preview shows pages 1–2. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
The Psychological Autopsy Shneidman (1987) developed the psychological LO11 autopsy technique for the purpose of compiling detailed postmortem mental histories following suicides or deaths that were equivocal (not sure of cause). Psychological autopsies involve examination of personal demographics such as work, criminal, school, and medical records along with in-depth interviews of friends, relatives, coworkers, and health care professionals to attempt to ascertain the suicide's intent. They also attempt to determine what the trigger events were that might have contributed to the suicide. For instance, normative data from psychological autopsies indicate that an average of 40% of suicides had a medical illness and that HIV/AIDS and cancer are two particular illnesses that increase suicidal risk (Kleepies, Hough, & Romeo, 2009). Psychological autopsies also attempt to determine what, if any, psychopathology was present in completed suicides. For example, it appears that between 30% and 40% of suicides may meet criteria for personality disorders. Psychological autopsies have determined that besides the big five psychiatric diagnoses of major depressive, bipolar, anorexia nervosa, schizophrenia, and borderline personality disorder that are precursors to suicide (Joiner et al., 2009), schizoid and antisocial personality disorder also have strong associations with suicidal behavior (Duberstein & Witte, 2009). The autopsy was initially conceived by Schneidman to help clinicians become more cognizant of the warning signs of suicide in cases where intent, reason, and motivation are muddled and unclear. The following questions seek to flesh out the psychological profile of the decedent's death—indeed, to determine first and foremost whether it was a suicide (Shneidman, 1999d). These questions are posed in an empathic manner to the survivors: Why did the person do it? How did he or she do it? When? That is, why at that particular time? What is the most probable mode of death? Besides details of the death itself, the autopsy seeks to determine the person's personality and lifestyle, typical patterns of reactions to stress, emotional upsets, and periods of disequilibrium, particularly in the recent past. What role did alcohol and/or drugs play in the person's life? What was the nature of his or her interpersonal relationships? What were the person's fantasies, dreams, thoughts, premonitions, or fears relating to death, accident, or suicide? What changes, if any, occurred in the person's habits, hobbies, eating, sexual relations, and other life routines? Information is garnered regarding the person's lifestyle, such as mood up- or downswings, successes, and plans for the future. Not only can these questions help determine whether the death was a suicide, they can also help determine how staff who may have been involved with the client can better prevent suicides (Shneidman, 1999d).
Image of page 1

Info icon This preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Image of page 2
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

{[ snackBarMessage ]}

What students are saying

  • Left Quote Icon

    As a current student on this bumpy collegiate pathway, I stumbled upon Course Hero, where I can find study resources for nearly all my courses, get online help from tutors 24/7, and even share my old projects, papers, and lecture notes with other students.

    Student Picture

    Kiran Temple University Fox School of Business ‘17, Course Hero Intern

  • Left Quote Icon

    I cannot even describe how much Course Hero helped me this summer. It’s truly become something I can always rely on and help me. In the end, I was not only able to survive summer classes, but I was able to thrive thanks to Course Hero.

    Student Picture

    Dana University of Pennsylvania ‘17, Course Hero Intern

  • Left Quote Icon

    The ability to access any university’s resources through Course Hero proved invaluable in my case. I was behind on Tulane coursework and actually used UCLA’s materials to help me move forward and get everything together on time.

    Student Picture

    Jill Tulane University ‘16, Course Hero Intern