Spirituality, Religion and Suicide
Pp. 73-101 (29)
Parallel to the growing interest in spiritual life in mainstream culture, in Western culture there has
been an increasing distinction between religion and spirituality. This article defines the concept of spirituality
and its constitutive elements and presents evidence from the literature to show that, in spite of its importance
for mental health patients and suicidal people, it is still an overlooked area in Suicidology. Not only are there
relatively few studies addressing this topic, but ‘religion/spirituality’ is usually just one of a series of variables,
generally measured with a single question (mainly inquiring about church attendance/affiliation).
Furthermore, studies on non-religious forms of spirituality are rare. Attention is also given to meaning and
purpose in life, a central aspect of spirituality that has been generally neglected in suicide research. Some
examples of instrument to measure spiritual constructs are provided, with a particular focus on
meaning/purpose in life. The paper concludes with suggestions for future research and stressing the
importance of considering spirituality in the clinical assessment and treatment of suicidal behavior.
Spirituality, religion, religiousness, culture, cross-cultural, meaning and purpose in life, suicide,
self-harm, mental health, wellbeing.
Centre for International Mental Health, School of Population Health, University of Melbourne, Level 5, 207 Bouverie St, Carlton (Melbourne, VIC), 3053, Australia