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Psychological Autopsy

Psychological autopsy refers to postdeath determination of psychological factors that were present prior to death. Psychological autopsy is both a tool for basic research, used in the search for generalizable scientific knowledge and principles, and also a method of forensic investigation of particular deaths that helps resolve legal questions.

Some of the earliest psychological autopsies were conducted in conjunction with research into the nature of suicide in the 1920s (Paris) and 1930s (New York). In 1958, the National Institute of Mental Health sponsored the establishment of the Los Angeles Suicide Prevention Center. At about the same time, the term psychological autopsy was coined by Edwin Schneidman, who worked at the center. Schneidman’s model of psychological autopsy consisted of a flexible and loose listening to survivors, ...

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