Step forward to show you care for the emotionally distressed

Suicide is everyone’s business and social media ensures the younger generation gets the message

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 September, 2016, 7:35pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 September, 2016, 7:39pm

Our centre is working with a few popular YouTubers to engage our youth and make them feel connected. One of the most popular is Jason, who has more than 440,000 followers, and the story of his life is a powerful one and relevant to our younger generation.

Jason had suicidal thoughts during his darkest hours and, as a man, felt it was difficult to open up to others about his emotional problems, so he kept them to himself. Fortunately, when he was on the verge of killing himself, his family called and provided both the care and support he needed.

Since then he has lived a life of passion, choosing to be a professional YouTuber. During a rash of student suicides earlier this year, Jason showed his care for youngsters and encouraged those in need to seek help. His video was seen more than 110,000 times, and received comments concerning suicidal thoughts and emotional distress.

Many YouTubers are young and they connect with their own generation. They may not be traditional role models who become doctors, lawyers and their like. In the new information age, they have lived out their lives and found something interesting and meaningful to do. They all have warm hearts too, and that’s all that matters.

Social media is a crucial platform that connects the youth of today, and members of the community may make good use of it to show our care for the young, especially those who find it easier to express their thoughts and feelings online.

Over the past few months, I have received many messages of support regarding suicide prevention and offers to help in our work, but this is often difficult on the practical level. However, infotainment and edutainment programs have been developed to reach out to the public on the subject.

With the support of Lau Ming-wai, chairman of the Commission on Youth, we have launched the “WeCare” website (http://wecare.csrp.hku.hk) to provide information on the warning signs, communication skills of those with suicidal thoughts, risk and protective factors, details of prevention hotlines, and an emotions test.

Suicide is a public health problem and it is everyone’s business. Anyone can have suicidal thoughts or suffer the pain of losing a loved one to suicide.

We appeal to the public to: “Take a step forward, let your friends and family know that you care about them, and accompany those who are emotionally distressed out of the shadows.”

There are encouraging signs regarding the tackling of student suicides and a concerted effort by stakeholders in the community will only improve matters.

Paul Yip is director of the Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention at the University of Hong Kong