Social researchers say the issue is largely forgotten amid media coverage of young people taking their own lives They are suicide's forgotten victims - the old, frail and infirm - who believe life has nothing more to offer, and their numbers continue to grow. Driven by overbearing isolation, the death of a partner, sickness or a feeling they are a burden, figures show those over 60 are now the most likely to take their lives. A staggering 36.5 in every 100,000 people in that age group took their lives in 2003, a 33 per cent jump on the previous year and almost double the number of those aged between 25 and 59. Eric Chen Yu-hai and Paul Yip Siu-fai, directors of the Hong Kong Jockey Club's Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention at the University of Hong Kong, say it is a media-driven myth that suicide largely afflicts the young. Figures reveal that the 15- to 24-year-olds are a distant third, with 10.7 in every 100,000 of their peers committing suicide. One member of the at-risk group is Chen, who is over 60. She slipped into severe depression after her son called her a burden following a knee operation that left her immobilised. Chen said she would have killed herself except she could not climb over the balcony railing at her apartment building, ironically because of the operation. Dr Yip said one of the reasons why the city suffers such a high over-60s suicide rate is the symptoms are often ignored by families. 'Depression might be seen as a problem with just being old,' he said yesterday on the eve of the World Health Organisation's Suicide Prevention Day. 'These days we don't have time for our children, let alone elderly family members.' Hong Kong has one of the world's worst suicide rates overall: with an average of 18.6 per 100,000 people. The global average is 15 per 100,000. The Samaritan Befrienders of Hong Kong is running an event today to coincide with the WHO's awareness day to help children deal better with their emotions. The city's busy lifestyle and pressure to perform at school and in the workplace have been named as possible reasons for the high suicide rate, but the HKU suicide centre believes all societies have their own particular problems. And while countries such as Australia and the US suffer far higher rates of suicide among the young, Hong Kong's lack of services for the elderly exacerbates the problem among the old. The 30 per cent jump in over 60s suicides from 2002 to 2003, from 26 per 100,000 to 36.5, coincided with the outbreak of Sars. 'No one would leave the house, let alone go to hospital or seek help, so the number naturally jumped,' Dr Yip said. 'People say that the government should do more but if they are not listening to their friends, families and colleagues, even seven new hotlines are not going to make a difference,' he said.