Background This study used path-analysis to examine the assumption that the presence of mental pain in adults mediates the relationship between self-destruction, number of losses experienced in one's life, and suicidal tendency. Methods Fifty suicidal inpatients, 50 non-suicidal inpatients and 50 healthy volunteers were assessed for self-destruction, losses experienced, depression, suicidal tendency, and mental pain. Results Self-destruction was found to have both a direct effect on suicidal tendency as well as one mediated by the presence of mental pain. Number of losses effected suicidal tendency only indirectly, mediated by the presence of mental pain. Overall, self-destruction was a more significant determinant of suicidal tendency than were the number of losses experienced during one's life. A competing model, with depression replacing mental pain as the mediator, was also found to fit the data. Discussion These findings provide evidence that the presence of mental pain is a mediator in the relationships between both self-destruction and number of losses experienced, and between suicidal tendencies. More studies are needed in order to further differentiate between mental pain and depression as mediators in suicidal tendency.