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LC Urgent Q3: Immediate measures to prevent students from committing suicide

     Following is an urgent question by Dr the Hon Helena Wong 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):


     Over the past half year, more than 20 incidents of students committing suicide have occurred, arousing wide public concern that students committing suicide has become a trend. It has been reported that the causes that led to those students committing suicide might largely be related to emotional distress arising from study pressure. Regarding the immediate measures to prevent students from committing suicide, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) given that the Education Bureau will hold district seminars and talks for teachers in this and next months, and will form a dedicated committee to comprehensively examine and analyse the causes that contribute to students committing suicide, as well as to make recommendations on appropriate measures to prevent students from committing suicide, but the committee will take six months to submit its report, whether the authorities have other immediate measures which are more direct to prevent recurrence of incidents of students committing suicide; if they do, of the details of the measures; if not, the reasons for that; and

(2) whether the relevant bureaux will immediately hold urgent joint meetings to expeditiously formulate, from policy perspectives of education, psychological counselling, public mental health, etc, an integrated strategy to prevent students from committing suicide, so as to prevent the problem from worsening; if they will, of the details and the timetable for such work; if not, the reasons for that?



     Regarding the questions raised by Dr the Hon Helena Wong, I set out my reply as follows:

(1) Having regard to recent student suicide incidents, the Education Bureau (EDB) put forward five urgent measures on March 10. Apart from setting up a cross-disciplinary committee, immediate support was provided to schools and parents by means of the other four measures which I will not repeat here. The EDB also issued a letter to schools yesterday to encourage schools to enhance their life education according to their own circumstances and needs so as to provide a more positive environment and mentality for the students.

     As a matter of fact, the EDB has all along attached great importance to nurturing students' positive values and strengthening their ability to cope with adversity. In the curriculum reform implemented in 2001, moral and civic education has been accorded as one of the Four Key Tasks, stressing that schools should strive to cultivate students' positive values and attitudes. The content of life education, such as "understand life", "cherish life", "respect life" and "explore life", has already been incorporated into different learning themes under the comprehensive school curriculum in schools. In parallel with the curriculum, the EDB has been promoting the adoption of a whole school approach to guidance and discipline work in primary and secondary schools, where all staff work collaboratively with professionals (including guidance personnel, school social workers, school-based educational psychologists, etc) to provide remedial, preventive and developmental guidance services for the healthy development of all students. We will collect views from schools through school visits and other channels with an aim to improve guidance services, and progressively increase related resources as necessary.

(2) 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. The EDB has a mechanism in place to identify and support primary and secondary students with mental health needs, including students at risk of suicidal behaviour. We recommend that schools should adopt a Three-tier Support Model to provide different levels of identification and support by teachers, guidance personnel and professional staff respectively, with close communication with parents. If the problems of individual students persist and warrant professional assessment or consultation services, teachers may refer them to professionals, such as school-based educational psychologists, clinical psychologists, family social workers or psychiatrists for in-depth assessment, diagnosis, treatment and follow-up, including medical treatment, emotional counselling, individual support, etc. The EDB keeps close communication and liaison with related departments (such as the Hospital Authority, the Labour and Welfare Bureau and the Social Welfare Department) to minimise student suicide cases.

     The committee as mentioned before will include school and parent representatives, professionals, and officials of different government bureaux and departments, and will study the reasons for student suicide incidents and make recommendations on appropriate preventive measures in a cross-sectoral and whole community manner.

     Suicide is really a complex behaviour with no single cause. We should not simplify its causes. The recent student suicide incidents appear to reflect some "contagious effect". We urgently appeal to the society to treat the problem in a positive way. We should care people around us, be positive and encourage people with suspected emotional problems to seek professional help. We should not spread negative messages which may affect those who are emotionally vulnerable.

     Thank you.

Ends/Wednesday, March 16, 2016
Issued at HKT 15:59


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