NGOs Rally for Enhanced Mental Health Support as Student Suicides Surge in Hong Kong

by Ella

Amid a disturbing surge in student suicides, five non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Hong Kong are calling for increased support for youth grappling with mental health challenges.


The Hong Kong Jockey Club Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) reported a troubling statistic: 22 suicide cases, including suicide attempts, involving individuals under 18 or tertiary students in the past three months. This figure represents a doubling of cases compared to the same period last year.


In response to this concerning trend, the research center, in collaboration with five NGOs – Caritas Hong Kong, the Boys’ & Girls’ Clubs Association of Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups, Hong Kong Children and Youth Services, and St. James’ Settlement – convened a press conference.


Dr. Paul Yip, the center’s director and chair professor of HKU’s Department of Social Work and Social Administration, expressed his concern. He highlighted that school-related pressure and family issues are common sources of distress among young people who take their lives. However, he emphasized that the causes are often multifaceted, with various factors interacting.


The resumption of in-person classes after years of online learning due to the Covid-19 pandemic, along with broader community changes, has also impacted students’ mental health. Yip stressed that students need time to adapt to the “new normal,” and changes in their social networks and favorite teachers leaving schools have created barriers to seeking help.

Charlie Chan, the service head at Caritas Hong Kong, reported that the five NGOs have been providing online emotional support services for young people. According to their data, 10.3% of secondary school students who sought help through these services in the past three months were categorized as high-risk cases, indicating suicidal thoughts or self-harm tendencies. This figure has increased from 6.5% in the same period last year.

Chan further noted that troubled youth most frequently mentioned mental health struggles, followed by academic problems and family issues. Misunderstanding by family members when youth express their distress has exacerbated their emotional crises.

The NGOs involved in the press conference called for schools to offer more mental health support for students and create a safe environment for seeking help. They also urged parents and the public to be vigilant about “warning signs,” including behavioral changes, mood swings, or unusual social media behavior, and provide timely care.

Dr. Yip acknowledged that their data on student suicides is preliminary, as the final figures must be determined by the Coroner’s Court. However, official statistics indicate an upward trend in youth suicides over the past decade.

In 2021, the annual Coroner’s Report revealed that 39 Hongkongers aged 19 or under died by suicide, a significant increase from 15 in 2013. Last month, the Samaritan Befrienders Hong Kong, another NGO specializing in suicide prevention, highlighted the need for greater attention to mental health issues among youth. They attributed the rise in student suicides to the city’s return to normalcy after years of Covid-19 and excessive academic pressure in some schools.

Amid calls for increased support from schools and the community, Dr. Yip also encouraged young people to seek help when facing distress. “Seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. When you reach out, help is available,” he emphasized.


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