Suicide study too hard on families

Linda Choy

LEGISLATORS and social workers have accused the Education Department of trying to blame Hongkong's recent spate of student suicides on families.

The Legislative Council's education panel heard yesterday that nine out of the 21 students who killed themselves in the previous school year were upset by poor family relationships.

In only two cases was the suicide sparked by school problems, according to an Education Department report.

Psychiatric problems, depression and lack of emotional support are believed to have led to the deaths of three students.

Other problems included romantic relationships, which accounted for two deaths; while personality and health, as well as poor peer relationships are each thought to have provoked one suicide. The cause of three cases remain unknown.

United Democrat legislator Mr Cheung Man-kwong claimed the report, which might be widely quoted in future, could mislead the public as to the cause of the problem. Another 21 student deaths have occurred since the start of the current school year in September.

''I really doubt whether the factors can be distinguished in such a clear-cut manner,'' he said during the panel meeting.

Vice-chairman of the United Democrats, Dr Yeung Sum, doubted the credibility of the report, based on materials collected after the students had died.

While recognising the department's effort, Mrs Mary Leung Ling Tien-wei, director of Baptist Oi Kwan Social Service, said the problem was far more complicated and the public should not be misled to simplify the issue.

Rejecting charges that the department was shirking its responsibility, the Assistant Director of Education (Services Division) Mrs Grace Yung Leung Yan-mei, said more comprehensive research had been conducted and she had agreed to hand a more detailed report to legislators after the meeting.