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Finding Aid for the Edwin S. Shneidman papers, 1933-2007
385  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography/History
  • Scope and Content
  • Organization and Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms
  • Items Removed from the Collection

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Edwin S. Shneidman papers
    Date (inclusive): 1933-2007
    Collection number: 385
    Creator: Shneidman, Edwin S.
    Extent: 37 boxes (37 linear ft.)
    Abstract: Edwin S. Shneidman (1918-2009), Psychologist and Professor of Thanatology, was a leader in suicide research, or suicidology as he called it. His interest in the nature of suicide and the suicidal mental state began in the late 1940s, and he dedicated his life to understanding and prevention of suicide. Shneidman's theory of suicide was based on his idea of psychological pain he termed "psychache." His theories are vastly influential in today's suicide research and prevention. Shneidman founded the Los Angeles Suicide Prevention Center in 1955, developed a national suicide prevention center program with the NIMH in the 1960s, and authored 20 books and hundreds of articles. In 1987 Shneidman received the American Psychological Association Award for Distinguished Contributions to Public Service. The collection contains research files on suicide, restricted patient information, correspondence, related audio-visual materials, and a small collection of Herman Melville ephemera.
    Language: Finding aid is written in English.
    Language of the Material: Materials are in English.
    Repository: University of California, Los Angeles. Library Special Collections.
    Los Angeles, California 90095-1575
    Physical location: Stored off-site at SRLF. Advance notice is required for access to the collection. Please contact UCLA Library Special Collections for paging information.

    Administrative Information

    Restrictions on Access

    Open for research. STORED OFF-SITE AT SRLF. Advance notice is required for access to the collection. Please contact UCLA Library Special Collections for paging information.

    Restrictions on Use and Reproduction

    Property rights to the physical object belong to the UC Regents. Literary rights, including copyright, are retained by the creators and their heirs. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine who holds the copyright and pursue the copyright owner or his or her heir for permission to publish where The UC Regents do not hold the copyright.

    Provenance/Source of Acquisition

    Gift of Edwin Shneidman, 2009.

    Processing Note

    Processed by Daniella Perry and Amanda Stemen in the Center for Primary Research and Training (CFPRT), with assistance from Megan Hahn Fraser, October 2011.
    The processing of this collection was generously supported by Arcadia  funds.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Edwin S. Shneidman papers (Collection Number 385). UCLA Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA.

    Biography/History

    Edwin S. Shneidman (1918-2009), Psychologist and Professor of Thanatology, was a leader in suicide research, or suicidology as he called it. His interest in the nature of suicide and the suicidal mental state began in 1949. He found hundreds of suicide notes in the Los Angeles County Coroner's office while researching two cases. The rest of his life was dedicated to the understanding and prevention of suicide. Shneidman held appointments at Harvard, the National Institutes of Mental Health, the Center for Advanced Studies of Behavioral Science at Stanford, and at UCLA. His theory of suicide was based on the notion that there is a threshold of mental/emotional pain upon which some individuals come to feel that cessation of life is the one and only solution. Shneidman termed this pain "psychache," and could be researched without resorting to biological or genetic causation. Shneidman concluded that most suicidal individuals, while in the fatal suicidal state, are ambivalent about dying and can be saved. His theories are vastly influential in today's suicide research and prevention.
    Shneidman became the first Professor of Thanatology at UCLA in 1970 and remained a full-time professor there until 1988. Shneidman also founded the Los Angeles Suicide Prevention Center in 1955, with Norman Farberow and Robert E. Litman. In 1966, he was asked to develop a national suicide prevention center program at the NIMH. Shneidman authored 20 books and hundreds of articles. Shneidman believed that suicidology should be about the understanding of the whole individual. He developed the "psychological autopsy," a method of figuring out an equivocal death, or a retrospective investigation of the intention of the decedent. Shneidman also believed that post-vention, the treatment of an attempted-suicide and the suicide's family, was just as important as prevention and intervention.
    In the late 1960s, Shneidman founded the American Association of Suicidology and its journal, Suicide and Life Threatening Behavior. As an internationally recognized scholar on suicide and suicide prevention, he was active in developing suicide or life-threatening behavior prevention programs in various centers at UCLA, as well as in Japan. In 1987 Shneidman received the American Psychological Association Award for Distinguished Contributions to Public Service.
    As a fan of Herman Melville, Edwin Shneidman wrote extensively on the suicidal connections in Melville's life and his writings, such as Moby Dick. Shneidman was a member of the Herman Melville Society and donated his Melville Collection to UCLA in the late 1980s. Shneidman's personal collection contains left over Melville ephemera and related correspondence with the Melville Society and Shneidman's work on Melville.

    Scope and Content

    The collection contains research on suicide, including restricted materials on suicidal patients, professional and personal correspondence, documents related to Shneidman's professional responsibilities, literature authored by Shneidman, and documents and correspondence related to Herman Melville. There are several boxes containing audio-visual materials of transcripts, radio and television appearances, patient conversations, and a NIMH suicide training manual.

    Organization and Arrangement

    Arranged in the following series:
    1. Biographical
    2. Suicide Research
    3. Suicide Prevention Centers
    4. Correspondence
    5. Professional Activities
    6. ESS Publications
    7. Herman Melville Documents
    8. Reference Materials (Including audio/visual)
    9. Uncategorized Materials

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.

    Subjects

    Shneidman, Edwin S. --Archives.
    Suicide --Research --Archival resources.
    Book collectors --California --Los Angeles --Archival resources.
    Thanatologists --California --Los Angeles --Archival resources.

    Items Removed from the Collection

    Items removed from the collection include non-Shneidman personnel files, empty folders, and duplicate files and reprinted publications.