Background: Different explanations of suicidal behaviour coexist today. The incompatibility of the beliefs among experts and (potential) users of medical services can influence the implementation of prevention programmes, helpseeking behaviour and adherence to treatment. Aims: The aims of the study were to identify explanatory models of suicidal behaviour and to determine possible incompatibilities between lay (the general population and suicide attempters) and expert (the general practitioners and psychiatrists) views. Methods: The Questionnaire on Attitudes towards Suicide was revised on the basis of semi-structured interviews with the general population, suicide attempters, general practitioners and psychiatrists. The revised version was then applied to each of these four groups. Results: Five explanatory models were identified: namely, personality, sociological, medical, crisis and genetic models. Significant group differences on the explanatory models were found. The lay people favoured crisis, sociological and medical models whereas the experts shared the belief in the medical, genetic and crisis models. Conclusions: The crisis model gained considerable support and was generally accepted as correct. This could be the common ground between lay people and experts and the starting point of both treatment and prevention programmes.