New suicide hotline in place

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 May, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 18 May, 1998, 12:00am

A new 24-hour suicide hotline is to be launched this week amid fears the economic slump is causing more young people to kill themselves.

It will supplement an overnight helpline provided by the Samaritans which has been overwhelmed with suicidal callers.

This month, 14 people have killed themselves for reasons ranging from money problems to failed love affairs.

Care workers say the current 7 pm to 7 am service gets about 100 calls each night, but limited resources mean only half the callers receive counselling.

Samaritans' director Frances Law Yik-wa said callers facing money problems had increased by 15 per cent over last year. 'Finance is not normally the only problem to drive a person to become suicidal. The problems are usually linked with other underlying problems such as relationships,' she said.

Youth suicides have risen from 12 during the 1993 academic year to 20 in 1996. Since September, 13 students have taken their own lives.

'Most young people have been brought up in a relatively well-off society and are often less tolerant of hardship,' said Mary Leung Lam Tien-wei, director of Baptist Oi Kwan Social Service.

'Some students were high academic achievers. It shows the schools failed to teach them the life skills they needed.' Another organisation, Samaritan Befrienders Hong Kong, said it had 1,433 calls on its 24-hour helpline in the first three months, compared to 928 in the same period last year.

There has been a marked increase in the number of callers since the financial turmoil started in October.

A total of 2,625 calls were answered between October and March - nearly 30 per cent more than the same period in 1996-97.

'These figures [suggest] people are facing enormous pressure. They don't know how to solve their problems and cannot look far enough to find a solution,' Samaritan Befrienders' Suen Ka-yin said.

Graduate Yue Chin-man, 35, plunged nine floors to his death from Tsui Chuk Garden, Wong Tai Sin. He was unemployed.