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LCQ1: Suicide cases involving young people

     Following is a question by the Dr Hon Elizabeth Quat and a reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, in the Legislative Council today (November 6):


     Incidents of youth suicide occurred in Hong Kong one after another in the last couple of months since the commencement of the current school year.  The number of suicide cases involving young people aged 19 or below in each of the past three years ranged from 21 to 28, which has once again aroused public concern about the mental health of young people.  According to the analysis made by the Samaritan Befrienders Hong Kong, while the prima facie cause of most cases of youth suicide involves relationship problems, the root causes of their suicidal attempts stem from their families.  As such, family members play a critical role in preventing the tragedy of youth suicide.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) regarding the promotion of family related policies, whether the authorities will formulate, from a family-friendly point of view, relevant measures in the short, medium and long terms, including measures to promote mental health among young people and educate parents on preventing suicides, etc.; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(b) regarding education policies, targeting on the problem of young people facing immense study pressure but not having sufficient time for rest, as well as the relatively low resilience in some young people, whether the authorities will conduct in-depth studies and analyses for formulating means to strengthen the resilience of young people; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(c) regarding health policies, as some members of the public have pointed out that the waiting time for adolescent psychiatric treatment service is too long, with the problem being particularly acute in the Prince of Wales Hospital, of the authorities' improvement plan in this respect; furthermore, whether the authorities will enhance counselling services on the mental health for young people so as to identify problematic cases early and provide appropriate treatment to the young people concerned; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     My reply to Dr Hon Elizabeth Quat's question is as follows:

(a) Under the "child-centred, family-focused and community-based" direction, the Social Welfare Department (SWD) provides preventive, supportive and remedial family services through the 65 Integrated Family Service Centres (IFSCs).  In order to enhance family functions, strengthen family relationships and prevent family problems, SWD and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) provide a range of educational and promotional family life education programmes.  Welfare service units in different districts organise activities such as seminars, talks, groups and exhibitions.  The service units will also, according to the needs of individual districts, organise appropriate positive family education to strengthen individual and family resilience and enhance family relationships.  SWD also promotes parent education, such as parent education programmes for enhancing young couples' knowledge in parenting and those for promoting parents' relationship with their teenage children.  Besides, the Family Life Education Resource Centre of SWD assists in promoting family life education through the production of family life education booklets, audio-visual materials and a family life education website.

     To strengthen family core values, the Family Council has also produced a series of multi-media family education materials with positive family messages to enhance family education and impart parenting skills to parents.  The materials have been uploaded onto the "Happy Family Info Hub", some of which are broadcast in IFSCs and 31 maternal and child health centres under the Department of Health (DH).

(b) The current school curricula include learning themes on life education.  In the Revised Moral and Civic Education Curriculum Framework published by the Education Bureau (EDB) in 2008, major expected learning outcomes regarding positive life values are also listed.  Schools provide students with diverse learning activities through school-based curriculum and partnership with organisations in the community, and nurture positive values and attitudes through Life-wide Learning and "Other Learning Experiences".

     In addition, EDB has launched the Assessment Program for Affective and Social Outcomes which allows schools to assess and understand Primary 3 to Secondary 6 students' performance in related domains, with reference to other school-based data, in order to render appropriate support.  EDB has also actively implemented various developmental projects. Professional teams in primary and secondary schools are set up to render timely counselling to needy students, as well as to implement a variety of preventive and developmental programmes to promote positive life values.

     As regards support for teachers, EDB continues to organise programmes to enhance teachers' professional development and provides support to schools by developing related learning teaching resources to foster students' positive values and attitudes.

(c) The Hospital Authority (HA) has expanded its multi-disciplinary team in 2011-12 to provide children and adolescents with mental health problem with early identification, assessment and treatment.  In 2012-13, the median waiting time for first appointment at child and adolescent psychiatric specialist out-patient clinics (SOPCs) of HA was about 19 weeks.  HA has put in place a referral and triage system at its SOPCs where patients are treated according to their severity and urgency.  Patients with urgent needs, including those with suicidal tendency, will be triaged into priority 1 cases and followed up immediately.  The median waiting time for first appointment at child and adolescent psychiatric SOPCs for priority 1 cases in 2012-13 was less than one week.

     At present, the Student Health Service Centres (SHSCs) of DH provide health assessment for primary and secondary students, which includes questionnaire assessment on psychosocial health and behaviour etc.  Students with emotional or behavioural problems or even suicidal tendency will be referred to HA, SWD or welfare organisations for follow-up.  SHSCs also organise talks on psychosocial and mental health from time to time, and disseminate information on psychosocial health through pamphlets to students.

     As regards outreach services, under the Adolescent Health Programme of the Student Health Service, a multi-disciplinary team of doctors, nurses, dieticians, social workers and clinical psychologists pays visits to secondary schools to help students establish positive attitudes and thinking through basic life skills training and topical programmes.

Ends/Wednesday, November 6, 2013
Issued at HKT 12:12


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