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01.12.2018 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2018 Open Access

BMC Psychiatry 1/2018

Reasons for living and dying in suicide attempters: a two-year prospective study

BMC Psychiatry > Ausgabe 1/2018
Juliane Brüdern, Annabarbara Stähli, Anja Gysin-Maillart, Konrad Michel, Thomas Reisch, David A. Jobes, Jeannette Brodbeck



The internal suicide debate hypothesis assumes that in a suicidal crisis, individuals are involved in an internal struggle over whether to live or die. Reasons for living (RFL) and Reasons for dying (RFD) are important individual reasons for staying alive (e.g. family) or wanting to die (e.g. hopelessness) and reflect this internal motivational conflict of the suicidal mind. The aim of this study was to explore the association between RFL and RFD of suicide attempters and current and future suicide ideation and behavior.


The sample consisted of 60 patients who were admitted at a psychiatric emergency unit in Switzerland following an attempted suicide. They received treatment as usual, participated in an assessment interview and completed self-report questionnaires. Additionally, they were instructed to write down up to five individual RFL and RFD. The number of RFL and RFD responses, depressive symptoms, and suicide ideation were assessed at baseline and 6, 12, and 24 months follow-up. Outcome measures were suicide ideation and repeated suicide attempts. Multiple imputations were used in order to address missing data.


The number of RFD responses was the strongest predictor for increased suicide ideation at baseline. The number of RFL responses was not associated with suicide ideation and reattempts. RFD, depressive symptoms, and baseline suicide ideation predicted subsequent suicide reattempt up to 12 months later in simple regression analyses. Mediation analyses suggested that RFD mediated the effect of depressive symptoms at baseline on suicide ideation at 12-months follow-up.


RFL were unrelated to the mental health of study participants and did not function as protective factor against suicide risk. RFD may be an important motivational driver in the suicidal process. Clinical interventions should focus more on the reduction of RFD than on RFL in suicidal individuals.
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