Social Media Autopsy | Evolution of Psychological Autopsy

BY SIFS India | July 13, 2020

Social Media Autopsy | Evolution of Psychological Autopsy

If we look at the present scenario, there is an increase in the rate of suicide among youngsters.

It's high time to take some steps to prevent more cases of suicide in the coming years. As matter of fact, WHO( World Health Organization) stated that 8 lakh people die due to suicide every year which is equal to 1 person die in every 40 sec.

Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among youngsters. In every suicide case, after post-mortem analysis, Psychological Autopsy is to be carried out.

Psychological autopsy is the analysis of the psychological aspect of the victim prior to death.

This analysis is done by interviewing family members, relatives, friends, doctors, police personnel. Even the relevant documents related to death and victim is collected and reviewed.

Social media Autopsy is a part of Psychological Autopsy which is done to know more about the victim.

Though today’s generation is more into social media, they share their emotions more in social media than in real life.

Such proneness is beneficial to analyze the state of mind of the victim prior to death. All these processes is done just to ensure whether the suicide is “self-inflicting Suicide” or “Abetment to suicide”.

It is a death investigation technique, which is used to determine the manner of death in case of undetermined, ambiguous, equivocal deaths. It is a process of psychological analysis (state of mind, influencing factors/instigating factors) of the deceased which causes him/her to commit suicide.

What is Psychological Autopsy?

It is a death investigation technique, which is used to determine the manner of death in case of undetermined, ambiguous, equivocal deaths.

It is a process of psychological analysis (state of mind, influencing factors/instigating factors) of the deceased which cause him/her to commit suicide.

After the death of an individual by suicide, a medico-legal autopsy is conducted.

The reports says about certain external features like signs of asphyxia, presence of ligature marks, froth from mouth, cyanosis of nails and lips etc, which concludes death due to suicide.

But it has become very necessary to actually determine the cause which compel an individual to commit suicide. Main motive is to determine whether it is a case of Suicide or Abetment to Suicide??

Psychological Autopsy is such an investigating technique which answers to this question, by analyzing the psychological state of an individual right before committing suicide.

This process includes collection of all the information related to the deceased right fro family members, friends, relative, police personnel and all members related to the case.

All relevant information is also collected to the deceased person and thus psychoanalyse is done and a theory is formed by synthesizing data.

What Is Social Media Autopsy?

Today’s generation is all about “Digital age”.

Every youth right from the age of 12 and above has access to social media. It is very common that each of us communicates, share our thoughts in social media which directly or indirectly suggests about an individual’s state of mind.

Social media in terms of Watsapp, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc are commonly used by every youth.

So considering about the case of suicide, social media is a best approach to consider for psychological analysis of an individual to determine certain factors which may lead to forming a conclusion.

Collecting all information from all social media accounts to which the victim is associated with, all its activity is to be recognized and recorded.

Using this information one can determine the possible cause or instigating factor contributing to suicide of an individual.     


How is it Helpful io Solve a Case of Suicide?

Social media is connected with various types of crime (cyber-bullying, cyber-stalking, etc) which may be the cause of committing suicide or abetment to suicide.

Many youngsters are so much into social media that they live a life of fantasizes.

By digging all the information of the victim’s phone, messages, emails, and social media accounts, it can be known that whether the victim was facing some sort of threats, bullying or someone who was instigated to commit suicide.

Children may develop anxiety, eating disorder, distress, depression, emotional problem.

It has become a trend for every social media user’s a to share every update about their whereabouts, their emotional status, the particular mood at a particular time in the form of status or updates.

So, it is very necessary to study the victim’s psychological condition prior to death by analyzing the whole emotional history updated in social media account.

If someone is facing cyber-bullying, the victim usually hesitates from sharing with anyone about the problem. According to them, they think suicide is the only way out to end the problem.

In this scenario we can consider this suicide as “Sub-intentional death” as the victim is not totally responsible for death rather it is cyber-bullying which instigates the victim to commit suicide.

This sort of information will not be provided by the medico-legal autopsy, so a psychological autopsy should be done in order to determine whether the suicide is “Intentional Suicide” or “Abetment to Suicide”.

Case Study to Support The Fact

A Southern Italian girl was found hanging from the railing of the balcony of her house. Using a bed sheet she committed suicide.

After post-mortem analysis it was confirmed that it was “Suicide by hanging”.

Then Psychological autopsy was extended with a social mobile autopsy to determine various risk factors.

After reviewing her social media, there was sentimental post updated in her Facebook profile prior to death.

Nearly 100 messages were recovered with her boyfriend. They were in a hidden relationship which was unknown to girl,s parents. For this reason, the boy decided to end his relationship with girl.

BOY: “we couldn’t meet again”

GIRL: “I cannot live without you”

This was the reason why the girl committed suicide. But this reason was never revealed in post-mortem reports. So it has become very necessary to conduct Psychological Autopsy in every suicide case.


Social-media Autopsy is not limited to the cases of suicide but should be extended to other cases to determine the actual manner of death and NASH (Natural, Accidental, Suicidal, Homicidal).

After the death of an individual, it is very important to investigate the root reason for the commission of the crime. Every individual is leading two types of life (i) normal/ reality life (ii) socially attached life.

These 2 ways of leading life are far different from each other.

So basically to know a person completely, it is very necessary to interrogate these two aspects thoroughly. In the Indian scenario, cases of Suicide is increasing at an alarming rate.

So it has become very necessary to determine the risk factor in order to minimize the rate of suicide in near future. Finally, it is a request to all the Investigators out there investigating suicide cases, to include Psychological Autopsy along with the post-mortem conductance.

Let’s take a step ahead all along to change the world and make it a happier place again.   


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Faye Mishna ET AL. Prevalence, Motivations, and Social, Mental Health and Health Consequences of Cyberbullying Among School-Aged Children and Youth: Protocol of a Longitudinal and Multi-Perspective Mixed Method Study.2016 May 24;5(2):e83. doi: 10.2196/resprot.5292. WORLD HEALTH ORGANIATION(WHO),Retrieved from:

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