Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Joint Ph.D. Program in Study of Religion

First Advisor

Carrie Doehring, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Stacey Freedenthal

Third Advisor

Sandra Dixon


Qualitative, Religion, Spirituality, Suicide, Suicide attempt, Suicidology


Among the current trends in suicidology that hold promise for suicide prevention are a focus on new areas for empirical exploration and the employment of creative methodologies to ascertain these phenomena. One such area is religion, along with its more enigmatic counterpart, spirituality. Suicidological research has long demonstrated that people who are religiously involved tend to be more protected from suicide than those who are not, yet it has been less attentive to the conditions under which religion or spirituality fails to inhibit suicidality. In the decades since Durkheim's renowned 1897 study, the majority of the related research has taken a broadscale sociological approach using limited measures of religiosity rather than conducting more penetrating psychological investigations into the idiographic lived experiences of religion and spirituality as they intersect with suicidality. This narrative-phenomenological qualitative study probed the complex convergence of religion/spirituality and suicidality by taking as its central research question "What experiences have suicide attempters had with religion/spirituality over the course of their lives?" Eight adults across the US who have attempted suicide at least once participated in in-depth interviews about the role, if any, that religion and/or spirituality took before, during, and after the attempts. The data were coded according to categories derived from the interview questions and interpreted using a theoretical model of the religion-suicide relationship propounded by Whalley in 1964, specifically its propositions that religion can encourage, stymie, or have no effect on a person's suicidality. The study participants' narratives, arranged thematically, clearly point to religion/spirituality's capacity to thwart suicidality but also to promote it, depending on when and what type of religion or spirituality was accessed relative to the suicide attempts. While life-limiting religiosity catalyzed or exacerbated six participants' suicidality before their suicide attempts, life-giving spirituality has assuaged all eight's continuing suicidality since their attempts. During the enactment of the suicide attempt, however, religion/spirituality was inconsequential for all eight. Based on these results, the author gives recommendations for further research and suggests spiritually integrated approaches to caregiving and clinical encounters with suicidal or potentially suicidal individuals.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Elizabeth Ryan Hall


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

259 p.


Psychology, Religion