Shneidman (U. of California at Los Angeles) examines the case of an individual suicide, bringing together interviews with his family and friends, involved professionals, and "consultations" with other psychiatrists specializing in suicide in order to conduct a post-mortem "autopsy" of the psychological state that led to the young man's death. Annotation ©2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR
Reviewer:Brett C. Plyler, M.D.(Northwestern Memorial Hospital)
Description:This is a psychological examination of a young man's life and his death by suicide. It is conducted by the author and a group of eight suicide experts.
Purpose:The book's purpose is to provide the readers with the inner details of a young man's pain and problems that led to his suicide as well as a discussion by the experts in an attempt to help the reader understand how and why this occurred.
Audience:The book is written for mental health professionals and anyone who has an interest in or been affected by suicide.
Features:The book consists of interviews with the subject's (Arthur) father, mother, sister, brother, ex-wife, former girlfriend, best friend, therapist, and psychiatrist, interspersed with evaluations written by the eight consultants. There is a commentary by Dr. Shneidman as well as a letter written to Arthur's mother from Dr. Shneidman. There is also a copy of the suicide note written by Arthur in the appendix.
Assessment:This book is a fascinating and painful look at a talented young man, both a lawyer and a physician, who committed suicide. The interviews with the family and friends are surprisingly open and honest. The discussions with the therapist and the psychiatrist and their reactions to Arthur's death were extremely valuable to me as a mental health professional dealing with suicidal patients. These accounts as well as the detailed history obtained by Dr. Shneidman provide an intimate portrait of Arthur's life, pain, and problems, and the reader is able to understand how deeply a person's suicide affects the people around him. The consultations all provide a unique perspective on Arthur's difficulties and what may have led to his suicide. The letter written to Arthur's mother by Dr. Shneidman is especially poignant and compassionate. Overall, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who treats suicidal patients or has been in some way affected by suicide.