A magistrate yesterday urged a suicidal single mother who placed a plastic bag over the head of her youngest son to focus on what she had, instead of what she lacked, before handing down an 18-month probation order. Magistrate Jason Wan Siu-ming had words of encouragement for Cheung Yuk-sum, 43, as he sentenced her at Eastern Court. "People tend to magnify their misfortune while taking the good for granted," Wan said. He had no children, he said, while Cheung was a mother of three sons. "And your son is in university. That is an achievement." Earlier, Cheung had pleaded guilty to one count of ill-treating a child, for slipping a plastic bag over her seven-year-old boy's head and tying his limbs with bed sheets on October 11. The court heard she had separated from her abusive husband and harboured suicidal thoughts. She suffered from depression and borderline personality disorder, and had difficulty telling others how she felt. She had even tried - unsuccessfully - to cripple herself so the family might be granted priority in the queue for a public housing flat, the court heard. "No one lives a flawless life," Wan said, asking Cheung to think of terminally ill and bedridden patients in hospital. He advised Cheung not to be overly consumed with her misfortune, much less try to kill herself because life was hard. Cheung, sporting greying hair, sounded markedly more relaxed yesterday compared to a week ago, when she gave a "teary" submission in court. "I was completely wrong," she said, when asked about her suicidal thoughts. "If I couldn't look after myself, how could I look after my sons?" Cheung pledged that from now on, she would work hard to become a role model for her children. She wanted her family to lead healthy lives, she said. Reports submitted to court about the defendant suggested a probation order and psychiatric treatment under custody would be suitable in her sentencing. In mitigation, Cheung's counsel Cannise Chan said her client might not be able to see her sons as often, should Wan impose a custodial sentence. Chan also said Cheung would be under pressure and cut off from a social life if she was locked up for treatment. "Her intention is, she doesn't want to be separated from her sons." Wan ruled a probation order was more appropriate, adding that a whole team of people, from medical professionals to probation officers, was waiting to help her. In the last hearing, he had told Cheung she was not alone in this world. The probation order would take up only a brief period of her life, the magistrate said, so what mattered would be how she lived out her life after the 18 months. He also noted that the youngest son not only was unharmed in the October incident, but also missed his mother badly. He gave Cheung and her sons his blessings before releasing her.