A true case :

Suppose a student is feeling helpless, alone because he has just shifted to a new city in a foreign country and is unable to find a place to live because rents are too high. Also, he is late by two weeks in his studies and fears that he won't be able to catch up if he doesn't get settled soon.

He is very ambitious but at the same time extremely afraid of failure. He constantly feels bad about this for a day and two and feels like giving up on his life. (He had have this suicidal feelings in past as well but somehow he was fortunate enough that he had people around). He tried to jump in front of metro but couldn't muster up the courage to act. Three metros went but he didn't jump in the end, soon he went back and contacted a person (met a day before) for help; he described what happened with him and the contacted person offered him to stay in his house. Now, one day after, the student seemed better and able to go to classes and eat properly.

Is the thing unethical/wrong/immoral? Did he use the "niceness" of a human being?

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    I don't see why there would be anything wrong with giving and receiving aid. Is there some philosopher you are reading or know of who would think this situation represents something unethical? – Frank Hubeny Sep 17 at 20:01
  • Such questions can not be answered without context. If this is for a class we'd have to know what ethical systems are covered and how. If not, you'll have to pick one, people disagree on what "unethical/wrong/immoral" is in many cases. It is not even clear what is supposed to be immoral exactly, and if the suicide attempt is at all relevant. Is "using the niceness" supposed to refer to Kant's maxim of not using people only as a means? Even if so, it is unclear how "only" would apply here. – Conifold Sep 17 at 20:08
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    Do you suspect that your suicide attempt was not sincere, perhaps subconsciously, and only a means to get someone to take pity and help you? Otherwise, what you are feeling is not guilt but gratitude, people naturally feel obliged to give back somehow after they are helped in a major way. Perhaps, there is a place for guilt, but not for accepting help, but rather for not seeking it sooner, for letting things deteriorate to a point of attempting suicide. We are ethically obligated to take care of ourselves, and seeking/taking help of others when struggling is part of it, the right thing to do. – Conifold Sep 17 at 22:38
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    Get professional help. Now. – Mark Andrews Sep 18 at 1:43
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    I strongly advise you to get in touch with the Samaritans and/ or to talk to your physician. Every sympathy : Geoffrey – Geoffrey Thomas Sep 18 at 7:25

If there is no room for failure, then ambition and guilt can make you want to escape the situation. I know that in the city where I work there are a lot of Asian students who are ambiguous too and get stuck in their study, have people at home with high expectations that with the other isolating factors can lead to suicide. If you are looking for justification for your actions, well you are still among us and you harmed no other person or yourself. Is it unethical to ask for help? Never. I would advise you to councel a general practisioner about this and create circumstances and a social network that can support you. And at the same time you become part of social network where you can either return the favour or be of help to others when they are in need. Reciprocal relations are healthy. It means we can depend on fellow humans even on the other side of the planet and even in our deepest despair. Moral could be understood as ‘from(M) rise (R) high(L)’ thus what Ethics you put on a pedestal. You have risen high or overcome the situation, your suicidal thoughts and this shows you have moral and ethics that help you make such decisions. You did not ‘use’ niceness. In this case it was offered to you. The best thing you can do in return is make sure you learn to accept failure as a part of life. Our problems are relative to situations and circumstances. Some you can change and others you can influence and again others will stay the same. You influenced a circumstance for the good by talking about the problem you faced. The contact offered to help change the situation. Maybe try to find help with what causes you to want to almost escape life instead of applying survival strategies. Ancient wise men said: “γνῶθι σεαυτόν“


What you describe, particularly the moments at the metro, must have been an emotionally burdensome situation I cannot easily imagine. It is not only very understandable that you asked someone for help, but seen from the other one's perspective, it might also be that he was glad you did not stay alone.

My view is that there is nothing to feel bad about!

I worry however that you could encounter a similar situation again; you also mention that you suicidal thoughts in the past. To make sure, I feel urged to suggest to seek help from a therapist or institution. The suicide prevention lifeline certainly is a good place in an acute situation; apart from that I think that there are important possibilities of strengthening coping strategies and increasing ones well-being that a therapy could provide.

I don't think you should feel a need to 'pay something back' for the kindness of your acquaintance; it was given freely.

I wish you all best,


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