Scientific Contribution

Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy

, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 211-223

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Sense of self-determination and the suicidal experience. A phenomenological approach

  • Jann E. SchlimmeAffiliated withDepartment for Philosophy, Karl Franzens University GrazDepartment of Psychiatry, Socialpsychiatry and Psychotherapy, Hannover Medical School Email author 


In this paper phenomenological descriptions of the experiential structures of suicidality and of self-determined behaviour are given; an understanding of the possible scopes and forms of lived self-determination in suicidal mental life is offered. Two possible limits of lived self-determination are described: suicide is always experienced as minimally self-determined, because it is the last active and effective behaviour, even in blackest despair; suicide can never be experienced as fully self-determined, even if valued as the authentic thing to do, because no retrospective re-evaluation from some future vantage is possible. The phenomenological descriptions of the possible scope of lived self-determination in suicidality, presented in this paper, should prove to be extremely helpful in three different fields of interest: (a) ethical debates regarding the pros and cons of autonomous or heteronomous suicide; (b) clinical day-to-day practice with respect to treating suicidal people; (c) people who suffered a suicidal crisis, attempted suicide or lost loved ones through suicides. (155 words).


Agency Autonomy Conduct of life Experience of being rescued Minimal sense of self-determination Phenomenology Self-effectivity Suicide