Year: 2018 Source: Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice. (2017). 90(4): 633-648. SIEC No: 20180306


This qualitative study aimed to capture the experience of living in the ambivalent space between life and death for adults with recurrent suicide attempts (RSA). It sought to expand upon an earlier study that explored the processes involved in transitioning away from RSA among adults, which revealed that occupying this ambivalent space is a crucial part of this process.


Interpretive phenomenological analysis (IPA) was used. This methodology was designed to explore the lived experiences and meaning making and enabled interpretation of the multidimensional subjective experiences of RSA participants.


In‐depth semi‐structured interviews were conducted with eight adult women with a history of RSA who had participated in a therapeutic intervention at the research site (Skills for Safer Living: A Psychosocial/Psychoeducational Intervention for People with Recurrent Suicide Attempts [SfSL/PISA]). The six stages of IPA were followed to analyse the interview data.


Analysis revealed the superordinate theme, ‘surviving moment to moment’, which refers to a precarious state of making decisions about one’s life and destiny on a moment‐to‐moment basis without clear commitment to either life or death. Two subordinate themes were identified: ‘deciding not to die in the moment’ when the participants were more invested in dying than living and ‘deciding to live in the moment’ when they were more invested in living than dying.


The study illuminated the complex process of making decisions about ones’ destiny on a moment‐to‐moment basis. It revealed the torment experienced when occupying this state, while paradoxically, also revealing how indecision about life and death provided a lifeline opportunity for those with RSA. Clinicians who recognize the subtle distinctions associated with this in‐between state can tailor their interventions accordingly.