The subjective quality of life goes down when negative affect outweighs positive affect- and I subscribe to the belief that people choose suicide when they don’t know how to cope with the negative affect. Whether it’s an impulsive act because there is immediately too much negative affect, or a more circumspect act because of a belief built over time that the negative affect will always outweigh the positive and a person feels helpless to change it- it’s more negative affect than a person knows how to cope with and they don’t see any relief in sight.
The opinion is often expressed that anyone who isn’t in physical pain with a terminal illness is ‘sick’ and should get help- but I don’t know, that view seems kind of dehumanizing to me. I do not think we, as a society, understand depression well enough to effectively help individuals who struggle with finding value in life. We say they ‘should’ find value- but I personally believe we are looking in the wrong directions (neuroscience, brain chemistry) in seeking methods to help them find it, and that these methods actually contribute to the devaluation of the human condition rather than contributing value to it. We keep trying to ‘fix’ depression by studying how we can physically manipulate the brain to make people feel the value, rather than actually looking at what human beings need to feel value or quality of life on a subjective level. I think overall our society errs in thinking negative affect is something pathological (instead of something unavoidable, something we must learn to cope with rather than get rid of altogether), and that quality of life is something we should be able to take for granted rather than doing the work of figuring out how to cultivate. It’s easier and more productive to take a pill, so that’s where our energy goes in seeking a ‘solution’- but I think that’s the pathology of our culture more than being a pathology of individuals within it, and it's alienating to the individuals. When people feel more negative affect than they can handle, and they’re being bombarded with societal value/opinion which suggests it’s pathology on their part to feel it in the first place, it can make them feel like they are broken beyond repair (because the meds aren’t getting rid of the negative affect, and no matter what they do it won’t go away). I think our cultural aversion to negative affect is more pathological than the individual experience of having it.
With all that being said, I do have a hard time not feeling some judgment towards those who choose suicide when they have kids. While I can imagine someone coming to the conclusion that their kids would be better off without them- I can’t even imagine what kind of message that sends to a kid. Several years ago, one of my son’s friend’s father committed suicide by shooting himself in the head in the garage- and one of her siblings found him. I really can’t fathom what kind of issues something like that would leave me sorting out for the rest of my life, to walk into the garage one day (with no warning) to find that. It’s just horrifically sad.
And regarding this ‘consistent and absolute value of life’ argument going on:
I think suicide is invariably the consequence of there being no subjective value for life, in spite of how much value life have may ‘objectively’. In order for ‘value’ to have any meaning at all- in fact, for meaning to exist, ‘objectively’ or otherwise- there must be some affective pull on the subject. Ultimately the phrases ‘objective meaning’ or ‘objective value’ are oxymorons, as ‘meaning’ and ‘value’ are a priori subjective conditions. The number of subjects (individuals) in any collective which can agree on the meaning or value of the thing determines how ‘objectively’ true that thing is. So life can ‘objectively’ have a tremendous amount of value- but in individual subjects, if there is no subjective value (in spite of the collective ‘objective’ value that subject may be environmentally, physically immersed in)- then ‘value of life’ will have no meaning to that subject. ‘Objective value’ is merely an estimation of what any subjective condition will be according to a larger collective based on the norm within that collective, but it can not determine whether all the subjects within that collective subscribe.
Furthermore, ‘objective value’ should effectively describe the meaning or value that actually exists within the subjects of a collective- not what select individuals within that collective decide what ‘meaning’ or ‘value’ should be to others. To declare that life has ‘consistent and absolute value’ for others in an ‘objective’ sense is imposing one’s own values as the ‘correct’ universal condition of being human; but if it were ‘objectively’ true, then this discussion of suicide would be a moot point- if it were truly an objective value (which is to say, if it really did accurately reflect the value of all subjects within the collective) then no one would ever commit suicide.