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Gero, G. (1965). Suicide in Scandinavia: By Herbert Hendin. New York: Grune & Stratton, Inc., 1964. 153 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 34:111-113.

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(1965). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 34:111-113

Suicide in Scandinavia: By Herbert Hendin. New York: Grune & Stratton, Inc., 1964. 153 pp.

George Gero Author Information

The point of departure of this interesting and challenging study is a statistical one, the well-known fact of the high suicidal rate in Denmark and Sweden and the perhaps less well-known one of the comparatively low rate in Norway. Hendin, a follower of Kardiner's interest in cross-cultural studies, saw an important opportunity to study and compare what he calls the psychosocial character of three closely related and relatively homogenous societies and at the same time scrutinize subtle differences in parental attitudes in the three Scandinavian countries. His hope obviously was that the discovery of these differences may shed some light on the discrepancy between the Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian suicide rates. He approached this task with thoroughness and dedication. He learned the languages of the countries and familiarized himself with their history and the modern expressions of national folklore, such as women's magazines and the popular cartoons. He then interviewed suicidal patients in all three countries, studied the case histories of others, and interviewed as a study in contrast normal members of the population. The result of his labors are presented in this book.

A general discussion of the history of theories of suicide and an outline of the psychodynamics of suicide serve as an introduction to the specific problem, suicide in Scandinavia. In his search for understanding the psychodynamics of suicide, Hendin interviewed patients who had made severe suicidal attempts but survived. He was especially interested in eliciting the various fantasies of these people about death. To find the unconscious fantasies he ingeniously used the dreams of the suicidal patients, dreams that occurred just before the suicidal attempt. He distinguishes seven different attitudes: death as abandonment, death as omnipotent mastery, death as retroflected murder, death as reunion, death as rebirth, death as self-punishment or atonement, and death as a phenomenon that in an emotional sense has already taken place. Hendin believes that these fantasies represent the leitmotifs characteristic of the suicidal patient. However it seems to this reviewer that in every

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