Following is a question by the Hon Leung Yiu-chung and a reply by the Secretary for Health and Welfare, Mrs Katherine Fok, in the Legislative Council today (Wednesday):
Will the Government inform this Council :
(a) of the respective numbers of suicides and attempted suicides committed by Hong Kong residents in the past year;
(b) whether these figures are higher than those of the previous year; if so, whether the Administration has analysed the relationship between such as phenomenon and the economic downturn and the hardship experienced by the people; and
(c) what measures the Administration has in place to prevent the occurrence of suicides?
(a) At present, the agencies involved namely the Police, the Social Welfare Department (SWD), Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs) and the Hospital Authority do not keep statistics on the number of individuals who commit or attempt suicide. To overcome this problem, SWD has embarked on a Feasibility Study to establish a computerised Client Information System. This will, if introduced, capture information on the profile of clients served by SWD and the nature of services provided. In the short-term, the Director of Social Welfare is examining how the collection and presentation of data can be improved.
(b) In the absence of comprehensive statistics on suicide cases, it is not possible to conduct any meaningful study on the correlation between suicide and the prevailing economic climate. Suicide cases are always tragic and are often complex in nature. As such, each case has its own causes which often comprise more than one specific reason.
(c) The Government and the NGOs provide a wide range of services designed to help individuals and families overcome their problems. This clearly involves dealing with cases of attempted suicide and handling the aftermath of actual suicide cases.
Remedial counselling and support services are provided by caseworkers in the 65 Family Service Centres run by SWD and NGOs, by family life education officers, outreach social workers and clinical psychologists. Medicalsocial workers in various public hospitals also provide assistance in many aspects. In response to the prevailing economic situation and the resulting pressure on individuals and their families, staff are available to provide early intervention, and practical assistance, to those in need.
In addition, 22 Family Activity and Resources Centres organise programmes designed to strengthen the ability of individuals, and their families, to cope with stress. Staff in these Centres also help to encourage the establishment of mutual help networks amongst families in local neighbourhoods.
There are also a number of telephone hotlines, run by SWD and NGOs, which provide immediate counselling services to those in need. Cases requiring further or more in-depth assistance, are referred for follow-up action by other welfare service units.
SWD will continue with its publicity efforts to bring to the public's attention, the availability of these support services and to encourage those in need to seek assistance as early as possible.
END/Wednesday, January 20, 1999