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LC Urgent Q1: Recent spike of incidents of students committing suicide

     Following is an urgent question by the Hon Albert Chan under Rule 24(4) of the Rules of Procedure and a reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Eddie Ng Hak-kim, in the Legislative Council today (March 16):


     It has been reported that more than 20 incidents of students committing suicide have occurred in less than half a year since the commencement of the current school year in September last year. That figure has already surpassed the relevant figure for the whole year of 2014, in which there were 18 incidents of young persons aged between 10 and 19 committing suicide. Such suicide incidents have become increasingly frequent which has aroused public concern that students committing suicide has become a trend. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) as the schoolmates of those primary and secondary school students who committed suicide may develop negative emotions under the influence of those suicide incidents, and may therefore harbour thoughts of taking their own lives, whether the Education Bureau has immediately reviewed and improved the emergency support services currently provided for the primary and secondary schools concerned, so as to prevent recurrence of students from those schools committing suicide;

(2) whether it has analysed the main causes and common characteristics of the recent incidents of students committing suicide, so as to formulate immediate measures to curb the trend of committing suicide from spreading; if it has, of the outcome of the analysis and the relevant measures; if not, the reasons for that; and

(3) whether it will immediately allocate additional resources to tertiary institutions as well as secondary and primary schools to increase the manpower of guidance personnel (e.g. social workers and clinical psychologists) for early identification of students with suicidal tendency and provision of counselling services to them; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     First of all, I wish to express my grief and sorrow over the recent student suicide incidents.

     Suicide is a complex behaviour with no single cause, but results from a complicated interaction of biological, psychological, cognitive and environmental factors, involving academic, health, family, relationship and friendship issues. Suicide of an individual usually happens with warning signs. To prevent suicide, we should aim at early detection and intervention with warning signs to be timely identified, risk factors mitigated and protective factors effectively enhanced.

     Regarding the questions raised by the Hon Albert Chan, I set out my reply as follows:

(1) If a student suicide case occurs, the school would promptly activate its crisis management team, and report to the respective Regional Education Office of the Education Bureau (EDB) to facilitate timely arrangement of professional staff and educational psychologists for on-site support, assessing the impact of that suicidal case, formulating a crisis management plan and taking appropriate measures in response to the incident so as to provide appropriate intervention and support services to teachers, students and parents affected, including special class period, student and teacher group/individual counselling, parent briefing, etc.

(2) Having regard to recent student suicide incidents, the EDB immediately held an urgent meeting with representatives of different educational and professional organisations on March 10, and put forward five measures right away as follows:

(i) The EDB will set up a committee as soon as possible to study the reasons for student suicide incidents and make recommendations on appropriate preventive measures. The committee will include school and parent representatives, professionals, and officials of different government bureaux and departments, and submit a report to the Secretary for Education in six months. If needed, the committee will submit an interim report in three months;

(ii) The EDB will arrange educational psychologists and student guidance personnel to deliver five regional-based seminars with four for schools and one for parents in March and April in order to enhance the awareness and skills of the school personnel and parents on suicide prevention and intervention;

(iii) The educational psychologists of the EDB and school sponsoring bodies providing School-based Educational Psychology Service will arrange school-based talks for teachers in March and April to enhance their identification of students with suicidal warning signs as well as knowledge on help-seeking resources, with a view to early identifying and supporting students with suicidal risk;

(iv) The EDB will also form a special team with educational psychologists and guidance personnel as members to, in coordination with the school-based educational psychology counselling service, provide additional support to individual schools on a need basis; and

(v) The EDB will develop information kits for teachers, parents and students in order to facilitate their early identification of students with emotional difficulties and seeking of professional support.

     We issued a letter to schools yesterday to encourage schools to enhance their life education through various school-based activities according to their own circumstances and needs, and to conduct sessions on life education highlighting stress coping strategies as well as positive values and attitudes, and information on seeking assistance for Primary Five and Primary Six, and secondary school students in the earliest possible opportunity. Related teaching materials were provided for schools for reference.

(3) Regarding primary and secondary schools, the EDB, through the measures and resources that I have just mentioned, has, in coordination with the existing school-based educational psychology and counselling, provided schools with talks on crisis management and immediate support services.

     As for post-secondary institutions, all institutions funded by the University Grants Committee have established dedicated units to conduct mental health screening for students, promote mental health and provide students with professional counselling and related services. Some institutions incorporate positive psychology concepts in their teaching materials to strengthen resilience among students. Institutions also provide training for students to become mental health ambassadors and organise peer counselling activities.

     The Suicide Crisis Intervention Centre of the Samaritan Befrienders Hong Kong, which is financed by the Social Welfare Department (SWD), provides different specialised services, such as outreaching service, emergency crisis intervention and in-depth counselling service. In addition, with the support of the SWD, the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups, has set up a Youthline service for children and youths, providing them with a safety net by assisting them to handle personal challenges and difficulties. It also helps stabilise the emotion of high-risk children and youths, and provide them with appropriate counselling and referral services through contacts with them by phone.

     The EDB will continue to work in close collaboration and enhance cooperation with government departments concerned, relevant organisations and schools, to provide more professional services of the SWD, Hospital Authority and other non-government professional organisations, to enhance schoolsˇ¦ awareness of mental health of students with a view to identifying needy students for support and preventing the occurrence of suicide.

     All in all, we need to mobilise the whole community and promote cross-sector collaboration with a view to devising effective measures to deal with the issue.

Ends/Wednesday, March 16, 2016
Issued at HKT 14:19


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