Hong Kong schools

One in three primary school students in Hong Kong at risk of suicide

Some 31 per cent of primary school pupils and 40 per cent of secondary school students polled were found to be ‘vulnerable’

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 May, 2017, 10:33pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 May, 2017, 10:41pm

One-third of primary school students and 40 per cent of Form One students are at risk of committing suicide from emotional distress brought on by changes in study environments and social circles, a report has shown.

The results prompted social organisations to urge youngsters to immediately seek help from parents and teachers if they feel depressed or overstressed. Parents were also advised to show greater care and concern for the struggles of their children.

The calls came as the Hong Kong Jockey Club joined hands with community organisation Caritas and volunteer agency Samaritan Befrienders to roll out three suicide prevention programmes, expected to benefit 8,000 students at 80 schools over the next three years, with 500 sessions of counselling for needy students and parents.

The survey was jointly conducted by Caritas and City University’s department of applied social sciences in September and October last year.

A total of 913 students were polled, of whom 449 were Primary Five and Six students from two schools, and 464 were Form One students from four schools.

Students were asked to answer 30 questions about the degree of suicidal thinking, negative thinking, depression and anxiety, and family distress they felt. They had to score each question on a scale of 0 to 30 in terms of magnitude.

The questions also covered how students felt about their future, whether they perceived themselves to be a burden to others or if they disconnected from their surroundings.

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Some 31 per cent of primary school kids and 40 per cent of secondary school students were found to be “vulnerable cases” – those with a score of 11 or above.

Of the 142 vulnerable primary school children, about 53 per cent said they once had suicidal thoughts, and half of them deemed themselves a burden to others.

Of the 187 vulnerable Form One students, nearly 49 per cent had suicidal thoughts while an alarming 86 per cent also felt disliked by others. Nearly 75 per cent of them felt low self-worth.

The university’s associate professor, Sylvia Kwok Lai Yuk-ching, said students from a single-parent family also had a higher risk of suicide as they tend to be more pessimistic.

“The findings showed that changes in family status or social environment for students led to them becoming more emotionally distressed,” Kwok said.

She urged parents to show more concern and greater understanding for their children.

Where to get help

24-hour hotline at Suicide Prevention Services: +852 2382 0000

24-hour hotline at Samaritan Befrienders Hong Kong: +852 2389 2222 Society for the Promotion of Hospice Care: +852 2868 1211