11/18/2023, 12.11
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Hong Kong, student suicide alert: 37 deaths and over 300 attempts in 2023

The victims were also joined by 269 (failed) attempts. In five cases, young people tried to take their own lives inside educational institutions. The peak of cases in May and October. Experts see difficulties in resuming the normal academic rhythm after four years of Covid-19 restrictions. New aid and support measures are under consideration.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - At least 37 students in Hong Kong have taken their own lives since the beginning of the year, raising the alarm among educators and experts about a progressively growing phenomenon. Along with this number are approximately 269 who attempted suicide, but managed to save themselves.

The data was reported by the Hong Kong Jockey Club Center for Suicide Research and Prevention, an organization linked to the University of Hong Kong, reports, which has released the latest figures relating to 2023 with a peak in cases in the months of May and October. Furthermore, in at least five cases students have tried to kill themselves inside the institutions they attend.

According to the report, among the factors that push young people to try to take their own lives are: school issues, family problems and mental health disorders as the most common. Among the 306 students who attempted or died by suicide, more than 55 percent reported mental health problems, but less than 40 percent received attention from professionals. Harrison Sit, an educational psychologist at the center, points out that some of the reasons behind students' distress "seem trivial", such as forgetting to bring homework to school.

“However, in some cases [students] are unable - continues the expert - to tolerate their mistakes” or are not willing “to allow themselves to make a mistake or make a mistake in their life”.

Hong Kong Health Undersecretary Libby Lee spoke before legislators yesterday, confirming that the recently created situation has generated a "serious alarm" among the authorities, who are studying emergency response mechanisms "at school level".

He then added that the Education Office (EDB) has analyzed several cases to identify the risk factors underlying students' discomfort; the Office for Health (Hb) and the Department for Social Welfare (Swd) intend to allocate greater resources to assist schools in the task of identifying young people at risk or in need of help and support, collaborating in the work of teachers and social workers. The latter, she added, "generally enjoy the trust of the students" and it is "appropriate that they be the first level of support".

Speaking at the same roundtable, former Justice Secretary Wong Yan-lung said some students may have failed to adapt to the faster pace of academic life, after four years of Covid-19 restrictions disrupted normal schooling . Some of them have also experienced family problems and the difficulties inherent in a slow post-pandemic economic recovery.

“The sense of helplessness and the sensation of being lost and desperate – he continued – are very strong”.

The recent wave of student suicides loudly reported by the media has brought the issue of mental health in the younger segments of the population back into the spotlight. Last week five NGOs held a joint press conference to urge greater awareness and support from society for young people in difficulty.

Activist groups have called for schools to provide more mental health options for students, urging them to create an environment where they feel safe and understood in their requests for help. Parents and friends should also pay more attention to “warning signs,” including mood swings and unusual behavior on social media.

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