On the pressing issue of suicide among the youth, I have already seen too many posts and comments all over the web to the effect that once a person knows/accept that history/others’ experiences point to the fact that parents almost never “move on” with their lives following a kid’s suicide he should not consider suicide anymore – that independent of his actual conditions/misery, his behavior will always be considered purely selfish, self-centered and morally wrong.
I’m a parent myself and I know for sure that “moving on” would be an extremely difficult thing to do; quite possibly, I wouldn’t be able to do it. (Damnit, I cringe at the mere thought of something bad (accidental) happening to my kids.) I don’t know much about other people’s parental relationships, but I guess my gut reactions to this are not that far away from what would be considered typical among most parents. (In fact, the near-certainty one has that one would end up feeling this way could be considered an acceptable argument against having kids in the first place.)
The problem here lies in the fact that that kind of parental attachment, despite having all sorts of underlying evolutionary, biological reasons, may also impose an almost unbearable weight to a human’s existence. Keep in mind that in order to see that kind of dynamics in place we don’t even need to focus on anything so extreme as suicide itself: consider a huge list of “life options” or “life styles” which are often viewed as possibly detrimental to one’s relationship to one’s parents. Likewise, there are a lot of people who would consider “likely consequences to your parents psychological wellbeing” as a major – if not the main – criterium to be applied to anyone’s big life decisions.
As an only child, you shouldn’t consider moving to Japan.
(i.e. you should proactively constrain the universe of possible career paths by default)
You should never regularly engage in any ‘risky’ activity (by any measure of risk), be it practicing an ‘extreme’ sport or even choosing certain professions, despite of you liking them that much, mainly because of the likely psychological effects that an eventual, accidental death or injury would cause to your parents.
Despite of your particular life circumstances, killing yourself would be the most egoistic act one could ever imagine. Especially so if you have loving, caring parents. They will never recover themselves. Given this clear realization, no suffering/hopelessness would ever be relevant enough.
The above situations seem to be misleading for at least two simple reasons:
- They assume that there’s no suffering intense enough to rival the suffering resulting from the realization that your act would possibly decisively reduce the chances of a loved person ending up experiencing significant pleasure in the future.
- They seem to assume that “giving life” is never anything short of a wonderful gift.
Giving up such a gift (actually, destroying it forever, as one couldn’t give one’s life to another person instead) sounds like a direct affront to those who generously brought it to you in the first place. It does seem to be the case for the majority of people, but the amount of suffering in the world isn’t negligible by any measure. There’s a huge diversity of ways (and constraints to the ways) a person can experience and react to what is happening around him. Anyway, it seems difficult to most people to unambiguously see exceptions to the “rule” that states that life is the perfect, ultimate gift.
Given enough thought and effective help, it’s quite possible that most lives would be considered “worth living” (from the person’s own perspective), but the most useful resources are scarce (empathy being one of the scarcest ones). We should refrain from the temptation of applying our own perspectives and mindframes to other persons. Full or even partial recovery may be really costly sometimes and it’s not up to ourselves to say what level of quality of life a person should tolerate/live with.
From that point of view, giving birth and raising a child, albeit being a wonderful experience and potentially a “gift” (in the sense described above), for both parent and child, may also give rise to a relationship having many aspects that could be considered unhealthy or even unfair, especially from the child’s perspective. In that respect, I would rather see my kid ending his suffering in some way to involuntarily making him (by means of my silence and general lack of emotional support) stick to his misery without end. As a father, I consider that his current and prospective concrete suffering takes complete precedence over my likely-but-still-uncertain suffering in the future.