ABOUT three out of 10 Hong Kong teenagers have contemplated suicide, a recent survey has revealed. The Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) interviewed 715 teenagers aged 15 to 19 and found that 28 per cent of them had, at some point, thought of killing themselves. Six per cent had considered suicide in the past year and 2.8 per cent - or 20 teenagers - had actually attempted suicide. The survey also found that teenage girls and teenagers with an education level of lower than Form Three are more likely to have suicidal thoughts, while teenagers from households with higher incomes are less likely to commit suicide. The research centre's director Paul Yip Siu-fai said while he found the figures alarming, it was an urban myth that teenagers had a higher suicide rate than other age groups. He said that this misconception came about because much more attention is given to teenage suicides while elderly suicides are often ignored. Suicide deaths per 100,000 people under the age of 15 in 2003 was 0.4, compared with 10.7 per 100,000 people aged 15 to 29. The elderly had the highest number at 36.5 people. Although problems with school are often assumed to be the main reason for teenage suicide, the survey found that serious family problems were, in fact, the main cause, followed by stress from extra-curricular activities and chronic illness. A separate survey by the centre found that people under 25 were more likely to talk to their parents about their suicidal thoughts prior to taking their own lives than to their friends. Dr Yip urged parents to be more sensitive to and pay more attention to their children. Eric Chen Yu-hai, associate professor of psychiatry at HKU, said that anyone who is approached by a person with suicidal thoughts must take time to listen and show that they care. 'It may seem quite contradictory, but people with suicidal thoughts actually want people to help them,' he said. He also reminded people not to judge or criticise people with suicidal thoughts when talking to them because it could create adverse effects.