Steps urged to stop mall suicides

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 February, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 February, 2010, 12:00am

The head of a suicide-prevention body has called on mall operators to take more steps to stop people leaping from high points.

At the very least, Paul Yip Siu-fai says, operators should not make it any easier for would-be suicides. Yip, director of the Hong Kong Jockey Club Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention, said he had been surprised to see several chairs placed along a seventh-floor barrier in a shopping centre in Sham Shui Po from where a mother hurled her four-year-old daughter into its atrium on Sunday before jumping after her.

The girl survived after being caught by a net extending from the third floor, but the mother died.

'One of the most important measures to prevent suicide is making hot spots more difficult to access,' Yip said.

Measures could include installing barriers where none existed or making existing ones higher, he said.

Sunday's tragedy was not the first at the Dragon Centre in Sham Shui Po. A 58-year-old man plunged to his death from the fourth floor of the shopping mall in July.

Yip said the mall should immediately raise the height of the barriers enclosing each floor or put up nets to catch anyone who jumped. He pointed to similar measures taken at Times Square in Causeway Bay in 2004 after three suicides there in two years.

It could also consider other quick steps to deter jumping, such as putting potted plants alongside barriers and increasing staff patrols, he said, noting that anti-suicide measures need not be intrusive but could be integrated with the surroundings.

Dragon Centre's management did not respond to questions about how the mall would improve suicide-prevention measures.

Police are treating Sunday's incident as a case of suicide and attempted murder. Contrary to initial reports, police said there was no evidence the girl's parents had quarrelled before the incident. The couple had been talking about her education over lunch in the mall.

Meanwhile, the secretary for labour and welfare, Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, said he was upset by the incident and urged couples to keep calm when family disputes arose. Social workers had contacted the family to provide counselling, as the child was still under observation at the Caritas Medical Centre, he said.