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Autopsy of a Suicidal Mind [Hardcover]

by Edwin S. Shneidman, Judy Collins
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

February 26, 2004 0195172736 978-0195172737 1
Autopsy of a Suicidal Mind is a uniquely intensive psychological analysis of a suicidal mind. In this poignant scientific study, Edwin S. Shneidman, a founder of the field of suicidology, assembles an extraordinary cast of eight renowned experts to analyze the suicidal materials, including a ten-page suicide note, given to him by a distraught mother looking for insights into her son's tragic death. The psychological autopsy centers on the interviews conducted by Shneidman with Arthur's mother, father, brother, sister, best friend, ex-wife, girlfriend, psychotherapist, and attending physician.

To gain some understanding of this man's intense psychological pain and to examine what may have been done to save his tortured life, Shneidman approached the top suicide experts in the country to analyze the note and interviews: Morton Silverman, Robert E. Litman, Jerome Motto, Norman L. Farberow, John T. Maltsberger, Ronald Maris, David Rudd, and Avery D. Weisman. Each of the eight experts offers a unique perspective on Arthur's tragic fate, and the sum of their conclusions constitutes an extraordinary psychological autopsy.

This book is the first of its kind and a remarkable contribution to the study of suicide. Mental health professionals, students of human nature, and persons whose lives have been touched by this merciless topic will be mesmerized and enlightened by this unique volume. An epistemological tour de force, it will speak to anyone who is concerned with human self-destruction.

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Editorial Reviews


"It is plain to us that no one talks or thinks about suicide in quite the way Edwin Shneidman does. His writing invariably challenges readers to think and re-think what they thought they knew. Shneidman loves ideas, he loves words, he loves finding completely distinctive ways of saying important things. As the founder of modern day suicidology, Dr. Shneidman's legacy is rich and vibrant. Shneidman is indisputably an original-a visionary, an innovator, and a pioneer who journeyed forth into a largely unexplored world of suicide fifty years ago."-David A. Jobes, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, Catholic University of America, from Cognition and Suicide (American Psychological Association, 2004). Pending approval

"This book stands in the twilight of Shneidman's long life and career, and yet those who are familiar with Shneidman's work will readily see that his analytic powers as an interviewer, investigator, and a writer, shine as brightly as ever." Metapsychology Online

"This collection of professional reflections is priceless and rare, and if words can heal-and in therapy words are the roots of healing in the shared exchange of ideas and emotions-there must be much healing that Arthur's mother and his family can gain from the insights of these experienced and emotionally generous comments." -From the Foreword by Judy Collins

About the Author

Edwin S. Shneidman is at UCLA.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA; 1 edition (February 26, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195172736
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195172737
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #316,792 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Edwin Shneidman, one of the keenest minds on suicide, offers an outstanding "autopsy" of a suicidal mind, Arthur, a miserable physician-attorney. Arthur, it seems, had a knack for having to be perfect and for communicating his pain in letters. Given his suicide letter (and many drafts that preceded it), Shneidman and a team of suicidologists interview several people who knew Arthur well (they thought) to try to figure out just why Arthur chose death over life.
The book is outstanding. It is hard to stop reading as each expert and interviewee offers his or her own unique views of Arthur's life and death. Unfortunately, if you're looking for one correct answer, it's not in this book. Shneidman does an excellent job of showing how ultimately all psychological questions can be answered with just two words: "It depends!" Depending upon your own perspective, you could argue convincingly that Arthur kills himself because he was, for example, mildly autistic (and untreated), clinically depressed (and inappropriately treated), selfish and narcissistic (attention seeking), controlling and dominant (had to have the last word through his own death), or traumatized as a child by rigid, unloving parents that divorced young.
Overall, if you want to see first hand how some of the premier suicidologists in the world can honestly, yet amicably, disagree, check this excellent, quick read text. It won't give you the answers, but it sure will help you understand better that suicide and psychological health are complex matters that we may never truly understand.
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13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "passing on" a review April 27, 2004
By A Customer
"I have just finished reading Autopsy of a Suicidal Mind. It is a wonderful piece to celebrate a kind of finale to a remarkable career in suicidology, a spectacular set of interviews and a remarkable set of commentaries by major figures in suicidology. And the case itself is fascinating. It is an amazing achievement." M. Brewster Smith, Ph.D. (Former President of the American psychological Asssociation)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very interesting and well presented discourse. March 2, 2014
By Jace
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Intriguing how complex the mind is especially when the thinking is off center. Are ALL suicides caused by this by-polar phenomena? How sad that no matter how accomplished and loved an individual is, this person can have such skewered thinking about themselves. Doesn't answer why but what then really does?
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book. July 15, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The author uses an interesting approach to researching the topic of suicide. I believe any therapist with an interest in this topic will find this book to be of great value.
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