Ask Chan Shun why she once wanted to kill herself and her explanation is simple - she married the wrong man. 'I made all the money to raise my family. I had to feed five mouths,' she said. ' He did nothing and gambled all the time.' Ms Chan, 78, lives alone now in a squalid 70-square-foot unit in Sau Mau Ping housing estate. She receives $2,200 a month in government assistance. In 1994, after her husband and children had left her, she felt like ending her life. 'I went to the top of a mountain and wanted to hang myself when I thought of how my husband treated me,' Ms Chan said. Apart from feeling unloved, useless and old, she was further depressed by her failing memory. Though Ms Chan found the will to live, others in her situation have chosen to take their lives. The suicide rate of the elderly, according to a recent Hong Kong University study reveals that while the territory has a relatively low youth suicide rate, its elderly suicide rate is the second highest in the world after Singapore. In Hong Kong, suicide accounts for more than 30 per cent of deaths in people aged 60 and over. The study shows that most old people have chronic diseases, indicating that they may choose to kill themselves rather than be a burden on their families. It reveals too that almost 70 per cent of elderly people who commit suicide tell their families of their intentions but are ignored. 'Their health deteriorates, they don't have money and they believe all roads lead to nowhere,' said Chong Ming-lin, assistant professor of City University's Applied Social Studies Department. 'Their supportive network is weak. Some may be divorced, separated or have lost their spouse. Their children have moved away. They live alone or with strangers in a housing estate. They have nobody to talk to or don't know where to look for help,' Ms Chong said. Even if there is a centre for them nearby , the elderly tend to avoid seeking help because they feel they would be a nuisance to the nurses. Some also do not believe that they can be helped, while others may simply have difficulty making their way to the centres. Apart from losing their health and their mobility, said Ms Chong, they may be in great pain, which causes them to be house-bound. They have lost their self-care ability and have to rely on others. These factors may cause them to feel useless, lonely, depressed and helpless. Of the elderly who commit suicide, many use gradual or indirect means, such as refusing to eat, seek medical help or take prescribed medication. Those who do go to doctors - professionals in the best position to detect suicidal tendencies in the elderly - tend to seek help for physical problems even though the real cause of their distress is likely to be depression. Ho Hei-wah, director of the Society for Community Organisation believes there is another reason the elderly in Hong Kong tend to give up on life: poverty. 'In recent years, the poverty problem has become more acute. Many elderly people are facing unemployment. Old people are the first to be laid off when the company cuts its budget,' Mr Ho said. 'The population is ageing fast and the existing social services are not keeping pace with demand,' he said. In 1996, 794 people committed suicide, a 2.3 per cent increase from the previous year, according to the coroners' court. 'The figures are consistent with international figures. 'If there is appropriate counselling and assistance available to the suicidal, unnecessary deaths may have been prevented,' a spokesperson of the Judiciary said. Between April 1996 and March 1997, Samaritan volunteers answered 20,901 calls. One third were from men and the other third from women. The remaining third were from callers too upset to speak.