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(1983). Vivienne: The Life and Suicide of an Adolescent Girl: By John E. Mack and Holly Hickler. Boston/Toronto: Little, Brown & Co., 1981. 237 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 52:122-126.
(1983). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 52:122-126
Vivienne: The Life and Suicide of an Adolescent Girl: By John E. Mack and Holly Hickler. Boston/Toronto: Little, Brown & Co., 1981. 237 pp.
This book is divided into two main sections, the first of which is a loving and poignant portrayal of a creative, deeply introspective fourteen-year-old girl, Vivienne Loomis, who in the early evening, on December 21, 1973, hanged herself in her mother's silversmithing studio in the family home.
The first section of the book brings together rich biographical information given by Vivienne's parents and two older siblings and exquisitely sensitive data about her inner life culled from her original writings during the three years preceding her death. These include her poems, a secret journal called "My Private Paper Book," school compositions and essays, and letters to a greatly idealized and loved male English teacher. They give a hauntingly beautiful but melancholic picture of internal stresses, labile moods and self-perceptions, deep loneliness and longing for love, and, despite fleeting moments of optimism, increasing despair to the point at which ceasing to exist seemed to be the only solution. In the last four months of her life she made several suicide attempts. Yet, at the progressive private school she attended she did not stand out as significantly different from her peers; she seemed to be struggling only with the usual developmental issues and conflicts of early adolescence. The question is why she planned and carried out the termination of her life.
Concerned about the rising incidence of adolescent suicide in this country in recent years, the authors decided to study Vivienne's life in the hope that it would lead to insights and conclusions which might assist in the early detection of those at risk. They wondered about depression in adolescence, the relationship between the painful struggle and the development of an introspective trend, the vulnerability to suicide as the only solution, and the means of prevention.
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