1st Edition

The Psychological Autopsy
A Roadmap for Uncovering the Barren Bones of the Suicide's Mind

ISBN 9780895039194
Published February 14, 2017 by Routledge
378 Pages

USD $56.95

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Book Description

The best way to grasp the essence of death scene investigation (DSI) is to witness its application, called the psychological autopsy, by an expert forensic scientist/clinician. This remarkable book affords the opportunity to delve into the challenges that the forensic mental health specialist and public safety professional confront in DSI. Suicides, and often death, are complex, multidetermined events. People, whether police investigators or mental health professionals, are generally perplexed, and even confused, when they are confronted by the equivocal case. Was it a suicide? Homicide? Accident? These are critical questions. Dr. Leenaars shows that DSI is, however, not mysterious; the reader can learn the generally accepted, evidence-based protocols of the psychological autopsy. Illuminated by individual (idiographic) case studies and general (nomothetic) research, this definitive guide allows the investigator to uncover the bare bones of a suicide or death.

Table of Contents

Part One: Nomothetic Study 1. Suicide 2. The Many Faces of Death: Homicide, Homicide-Suicide, Self-Harm, and Accidents Part Two: Methods 3. The Nomothetic and Idiographic Approaches 4. The Psychological Autopsy (PA) 5. A Conversation with Edwin S. Shneidman on Suicide and the PA 6. Problems with the PA 7. How Many Informants are Needed? 8. Benefits for Informants Part Three: Idiographic Study 9. A PA: A Barren Bones Investigation 10. Documents in the Courtroom 11. The PA in the Courtroom Part Four: Discussion 12. What I Have Learned 13. Final Forgetting

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Antoon A. Leenaars, PhD, CPsych, CPQ, a mental health, public health, and forensic psychologist, has conducted influential research on death and suicide, and was the founding editor in chief of the journal Archives of Suicide Research. Dr. Leenaars has provided forensic services in cases of wrongful death, suicide, homicide-suicide, homicide, and accidents.


"The Psychological Autopsy is a powerful addition to the field and a fountain of knowledge for the reader. This book is destined to become a classic in the field! It is not only a topic that is needed, but it is an exceedingly well documented, well written, and theoretically sound book. This is truly a book that anyone who has an interest in suicide, homicide, or accidental death analysis simply must read! 

Gerry Cox, PhD, emeritus professor of sociology at University of Wisconsin–La Crosse

"Antoon Leenaars’s The Psychological Autopsy is a clear-minded guide that combines the statistical and individual differences from which the lawyer, psychologist and police investigator will gain much This excellent guide brings a serious scientific approach about suicide and homicide to life. If you want to know the basics to the more complex components of this challenging and important area of forensic psychology, by all means get this book; it’s an original and superb guide."

Jack Kitaeff, JD, PhD, licensed psychologist, attorney at law, author, and former major in the US Army

"This is essential reading for all of those professionally involved with the difficult task of establishing causes of death. Written by an internationally known expert, The Psychological Autopsy enriches our knowledge and way of thinking, especially on the psychological autopsy method and its theoretical and practical limitations. Corroborated by transcripts of a precious conversation with Edwin Shneidman, the volume distills the enormous expertise accumulated by the author’s many years of forensic and clinical practice."

Diego de Leo, DSc, MD, PhD, FRANZCP, emeritus professor of psychiatry at Griffith University, Australia