Hong Kong's future lies in its young people. Yet surveys this week on suicide and gambling suggest many of them are not getting the care and nurturing they deserve. Both studies raise serious questions about the state of our city's youngsters. They point to a lack of understanding and neglect. Suicide is a growing problem among teenagers the world over. The number of cases is no more alarming here than elsewhere, but a dramatic increase over the past five years is eye-opening. A total of 25 people aged below 20 killed themselves last year, analysis of Coroner's Court statistics by the concern group The Samaritan Befrienders Hong Kong showed. That is a small proportion of the city's total of 1,015, but was up 43 per cent on the 2005 figure. Meanwhile, a study of gambling habits of people aged between 11 and 24 by the Chinese University of Hong Kong's sociology department is also worrying. Researchers interviewed 703 problem youths determined by social workers to be at risk and 4,734 ordinary secondary school students. That 95 per cent of the former were found to have gambled is not surprising - teenagers who run wild have a reputation for being easily led astray and falling into bad habits. Unexpected, though, was the finding that 28 per cent of pupils had also made bets, from an average starting age of 11.8 years. There has also long been concern expressed about the growing number of young people taking drugs; it's the reason a pilot programme to randomly test high school students began in Tai Po a year ago. And underage drinking raises its head as an issue from time to time. We have a right to be worried about such matters - with addiction and abuse, lives can be harmed. Suicide is a tragedy for the family and friends of the victim. Young people are not the government's highest priority. They are not considered ready to contribute to society and fare poorly when it comes to policies and programmes. Parents often have overly high expectations of their children; some push them into after-school study programmes, and when grades are not achieved, their offspring are berated as apathetic and lazy. Busy lives in our pressure-cooker city lead to our youngsters too often being left alone to fend for themselves. We are surrounded by forms of gambling. Stock markets can be a game of chance as much as horse racing and lottery tickets. The casinos of Macau are considered a break from Hong Kong. It is little wonder that people turn to betting at a young age and, at times, fall deeply into debt. Suicide is complex - psychological, social, biological, cultural and environmental factors may be involved. A lot can be done to prevent it, although a complex problem cannot be solved with an easy cure. Opening a new mental health service or training teachers to detect suicidal tendencies is the last line of defence. Intervention has to be cultural, meet spiritual needs, deal with relationships and allay doubts and uncertainties. We have to provide options and information and ask questions when necessary. If young members of society are to grow well and positively, they have to be given good messages. High suicide and gambling rates are a symptom of our society. Our government should put greater resources into youth issues, like sport and recreation, to give a greater sense of meaning to life. We need to lower expectations for our children while making them feel more a part of the family and society. Our young people are our city's future; they need to be listened to, accepted and appreciated.