Search for Self and Spirit in Suicidology – Abstract

Suicidology, the “science of self-destructive behaviors”, is inherently limited in its capacity to understand the lived experienced of suicidality. Constrained by a conceptual framework and empirical methods that demand ‘observable objects’, it is blind to the subjective reality of the suicidal dilemma. This dilemma can be described as a crisis of the self, the ‘sui’ in suicide, which is both the victim and perpetrator of any suicidal act. It can also be seen as a spiritual crisis, where the meaning and purpose of existence is being questioned. These point to two conspicuous weaknesses in the discipline of suicidology: its impoverished concepts of the self and its denial of spirituality. This paper employs Ken Wilber’s Integral Psychology as a conceptual framework capable of accommodating the subjective and the spiritual. It then identifies the innovative methods we need to capture more of this subjective, soulful meaning of the lived experience under investigation. Finally, it emphasises that these methods require in-depth, first person accounts – personal stories – of suicidality. This original voice is another conspicuous gap in the discipline of suicidology.