Student suicides number rise as two girls, age 11 and 20, took their lives over the weekend

By Ben Pang

The Professional Teachers’ Union says students are at risk, and the Education Bureau needs to take the pressure off

By Ben Pang |

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[UPDATE: Monday, March 14 - 2.10pm]

Two more deaths were reported over the weekend.

A 20-year-old female Hong Kong Polytechnic University student jumped to her death from her home in Hong Sing Garden, Tseung Kwan O, on Sunday at 1pm. A police spokesperson said it is suspected that the death of the student - who was studying to become a mental health nurse - was related to stress from her daily life.

This follows the death of an 11-year-old girl, whose suicide was reported around 12.30pm on Saturday. The Primary Six student was found outside a block of flats in Jat Min Chuen estate, Sha Tin, having jumped from the building.

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[UPDATE: Thursday, March 10 - 12.00pm]

A 20-year-old male University of Hong Kong student was found dead yesterday at 6pm, outside Kai Sin House of the Upper Wong Tai Sin Estate, a spokesperson for the Hong Kong police says. Medical responders comfirmed his death at the scene, and police suspects his suicide was related to academic issues. 

The Professional Teachers’ Union (PTU) criticised the Education Bureau’s failure to re-evaluate the competitive education system, as it puts undue pressure on students and has led to a series of student suicides. There have been 20 student suicides in this academic year, according to the PTU.

Speaking to Young Post yesterday, PTU’s Secretary Tin Fong-chak said offering counselling services is not enough to tackle students’ mental health problems. “Secretary of Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim’s willingness to convene an emergency meeting with experts is the first step to address this issue, but he has only stepped up schools’ counselling services,” he says. “Why doesn’t he look at the core issue - the problematic education system which only focuses on examinations?”

He added teachers have a huge workload so they have limited time to devote to students’ mental issues. “PTU is now calling on the government to take prompt action to re-evaluate the curriculum at secondary and primary schools, and public examinations like the Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA).” 

You can find help by calling a 24-hour suicide prevention hotline:

Suicide Prevention Service: 2382 0000

The Samaritans (multilingual): 2896 0000

A 12-year-old schoolboy from Buddhist Sum Heung Lam Memorial College fell to his death in Tin Shui Wai on Tuesday. He was said to be unhappy because of academic problems. His death was the third student suicides in four days, following a third-year Chinese University medical student in Fanling, and a Form Four student in Wong Tai Sin.

Secretary of Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim said he was “deeply concerned and distressed” to hear about the number of student suicides. He promised to call for a meeting with different school councils and educational psychologists to tackle the problem.

The Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups counselling service supervisor Hsu siu-man recommends students to keep an eye on classmates who are struggling with their studies.

“First, be a listener and be supportive. Listen to their difficulties and don’t challenge them. Second, always be responsive. When you receive their messages, reply at once to let them know you are always around,” says Hsu. “If the problems cannot be fixed, go with them to get professional advice from teachers, social workers, or psychologists.”

Psychiatrist Tony Lai Tai-sum said social networks are common places for young people to share their feelings. “So instead of commenting ‘add oil’, send a private message to friends and ask if they need your help,” says Lai.

Suicide Prevention Service Executive Director Vincent Ng Chi-kwan recommends young people to be alert of their friends’ unusual behaviour. “Be aware of their physical appearance, such as sudden weight loss. Also be sensitive to their psychological state. You can see if they are always in a bad mood. Their language and behaviour are indicators too. Check if they have any suicidal thoughts or say something hopeless,” says Ng.