International accolade for research team

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 January, 2012, 12:00am


The director of the University of Hong Kong's Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention is the first Asian winner of a prestigious international award for work to prevent deaths.

Professor Paul Yip Siu-fai was awarded the Stengel Research Award by the International Association for Suicide Prevention, an accolade given every two years to an individual who makes a significant contribution to suicide prevention both in their own region and internationally.

The award is in recognition of a series of pioneering initiatives by the centre since it was set up a decade ago, including campaigns to limit charcoal sales, install screen doors at MTR stations and to make suicide-jumping black spots safer.

'I am very happy with this, but this award is down to the combined effort of everyone at the centre,' Yip said.

He hoped the award would draw more international attention to Hong Kong's work in the field.

'Most suicide prevention is driven by the Western perspective. Whatever works, they want to impose it on Asia. But it doesn't work in that way. One size doesn't fit all and you have to look at the different cultural aspects.

'We have tried some things out here which have been recognised and we are sharing experiences from here that could benefit the West too.

'Suicide prevention work in Asia is not well organised and it is underfunded. Sixty per cent of the world's suicides occur in Asia but we estimate that we have less than 10 per cent of the global budget.

'In the US, they spend millions of dollars. In Australia, the government spends millions to deal with suicide prevention. Here, our government gives us peanuts to do suicide prevention - but it is starting to change.

'Attitudes have changed. People's awareness of depression and mental illness and stigmatisation has improved. But we still have much more to do.'