Youth suicides on the increase, report finds

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 December, 2009, 12:00am

The number of youth suicides reported last year rose by more than 20 per cent compared with figures recorded in the previous year, according to the 2008 Coroner's Report.

A total of 157 people aged below 30 committed suicide last year, compared to 129 in 2007 - an increase of 22 per cent.

The Samaritans pointed out that suicides had accounted for nearly 10 times more deaths in the past five years than those caused by traffic accidents.

Some 962 people committed suicide last year, while 111 were killed in traffic accidents, according to the Coroner's Report. A similar trend was also observed in 2007, with 855 suicides compared to 106 deaths in car accidents.

'These are alarming figures. Losing a life in a car accident is already terrible news ... but the number of deaths caused by suicide is almost 10 times greater,' Serena Wong Sze-sze, publicity and fund-raising manager for The Samaritans, said.

'But it is difficult to point to just one or two factors causing the increase in youth suicides. There are many reasons behind each suicide. We are more concerned about how to prevent such tragedies from happening.'

The suicide prevention group, in the wake of the sharp rise in suicides involving youngsters, will launch the Young Samaritans Peer Support Programme, which aims to train secondary school pupils aged 16 to 19.

'We aim to recruit about 60 students from 30 schools and give them training about how to identify classmates or friends with high suicidal risks and how to help them,' she said.

'We want to increase local students' participation by offering training programmes in Chinese this time. We have been doing this programme for some years, but we do it mainly in English.'

Wong said the group was aware that some young people communicated on the internet with others trying to commit suicide.

'We hope the programme can reach out more to youngsters in schools so that they can help spread a message of positive living to their peers,' she said.

One of the young people taking part is Jody Wong, 17, who once attempted to commit suicide.

'I suffered from depression when I was 13 and I started seeing doctor a year later. I used to hurt myself with a cutter when I felt upset. Now I try to ease that emotion by listening to music, reading books, tearing paper and drawing,' Wong said.

'Now I have learnt to be more sensitive to people around me who might be suffering from depression and I will help them by listening to their problems.'

The group received 31,030 calls for help in the budget year of 2008-09, while 28,896 calls were received in the previous year.

Confirmed male callers accounted for 34 per cent, while 30 per cent were from female callers. The other callers declined to speak.

Serena Wong said women were more open to talking about their problems to friends and families.

'But men are reluctant to talk about problems with people they know. They prefer talking to us, as all information is confidential.'