Good health education can help students cope better with depression

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 March, 2016, 5:13pm
UPDATED : Friday, 25 March, 2016, 5:13pm

It was revealed earlier this month that there had been 22 suicides among the local student population since the start of the academic year, including secondary and tertiary students. Some parents are beginning to ask what has gone wrong with our education system.

Psychiatrists, counsellors and educators are trying to figure out what has happened and find remedies. They talk about external and then internal factors which affect students directly. Some educators think that one factor is a change in the education system that means students enter universities a year earlier than before.

Teenagers are at a turning point in their lives. Because of the difficulties they encounter, they need help and support from families and schools.

Immediate measures have also been introduced by the Education Bureau after meetings with schools, parents and the relevant professionals. But they will only alleviate the present acute crisis.

In order to break this vicious circle, we must get to the root of the problem. According to Suicide.org, a non-profit organisation in the US, “Over 90 per cent of people who die by suicide have a mental illness at the time of their death”, most commonly depression.

A local survey was done between October 2014 and April 2015, interviewing 10,140 Form one to Form six students in 22 schools, covering 11 districts. It showed that 51 per cent of students had “an inclination to depression at different levels”.

If the findings are accurate, the government must initiate education reforms to reduce the pressure felt by students. Health education should be strengthened to eliminate the stigma attached to depression and anxiety. Life education is also important.

We should all treasure our precious life and never give up easily. Local students have low emotional intelligence and are vulnerable to adversity. Are they all being both spoiled by parents and pushed to excel?

All parties should spare no effort to prevent further tragedies. The media should avoid exaggeration when reporting suicides which might encourage copycat suicides.

Governments around the world usually neglect the rights and needs of youngsters, and some are driven to desperation and anger.

If society is supportive and gives youngsters the chance to gain a sense of pride, they won’t feel they have been forgotten.

We have to stop making excuses in Hong Kong and all of us have to accept responsibility and help our youngsters.

Dr Raymond Tam, principal, G. T. (Ellen Yeung) College