The internal suicide debate hypothesis: Exploring the life versus death struggle

Keith M. Harris, John P. McLean, Jeanie Sheffield, David Jobes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)


Researchers and theorists (e.g., Shneidman, Stengel, Kovacs, and Beck) hyothesized that suicidal people engage in an internal debate, or struggle, over whether to live or die, but few studies have tested its tenability. This study introduces direct assessment of a suicidal debate, revealing new aspects of suicidal ideation. Results, from an online survey (N = 1,016), showed nearly all suicide-risk respondents engaged in the debate. In addition, debate frequency accounted for 54% of the variance in suicidality scores, and showed significant associations with other indicators of suicide risk. Likely factors of the debate, reasons for living and dying, showed significant differences by suicidality, and most suicide-risk participants reported going online for such purposes, demonstrating a behavioral component of the debate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181-192
Number of pages12
JournalSuicide and Life-Threatening Behavior
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2010


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