Date
22 October 2017
Someone once said it takes a village to raise a child. It will take our collective outrage, all our best intentions and all the little deaths we have died to snatch a troubled child from the jaws of suicide. Photo: HKEJ
Someone once said it takes a village to raise a child. It will take our collective outrage, all our best intentions and all the little deaths we have died to snatch a troubled child from the jaws of suicide. Photo: HKEJ

EJI View: We can act now or watch our future waste away

Our heart sinks every time we hear of yet another child committing suicide.

These past four days, three students killed themselves for reasons that are too heart-wrenchingly familiar.

Five were from the same school, aged 18 to 21, in the past seven months alone. 

They tend to get younger or further along in life. The youngest was an 11-year-old boy; eight were college students.

These senseless deaths are adding to an already alarming statistics on Hong Kong suicides but the trend breaks toward the unfathomable.

The suicide rate for people 15 to 24 ranged from 4.4 percent to 5.9 percent in the 10 years to 2014, according to the Center for Suicide Research and Prevention.

The rate is falling but even one suicide is too many.

We would think that these figures would have played into government or school policy, or anything that remotely resembles a response to the issue.

But while we hear of “efforts” being made to stem juvenile delinquency, we have rarely heard of anything being done to prevent young people from taking their troubles to the extreme.

For the most part, these efforts are invisible – as absent as a calming voice to reassure us that society and, indeed, the government are listening.

A study by the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups shows that a quarter of primary and secondary students have extremely high levels of stress. Four in 10 feel anxious about a new school year.

Most worry about exams, too much homework or that the lessons will be too difficult.

And three in 10 think they are going crazy.

This is not to say measures don’t exist or government bodies are not in place.

We are sure school counselling or peer counselling is taking place right this minute.

But is it enough?

Are social workers making enough visits to troubled homes to help strengthen the family dynamic?

Is there funding, let alone a proper program, for medical and psychiatric research into the phenomenon?

Does our education policy recognize student suicide as a mental health issue linked to schoolwork?

The silence and inaction of government officials and school administrators over these deaths are disgraceful.

Beyond commiseration and the occasional outreach to the victims’ families, nothing is being done by the authorities in the way of tackling the root of this evil.

We don’t know what it is; that’s why it needs to be delved into.

But the symptoms are clear that the actions by those tormented youths are a cry for help.

As individuals, we must have felt a tug at our heartstrings at the news of another tragedy, perhaps said a prayer, even shed a tear.

But we tend to walk away as if nothing happened.

Tomorrow, we might be gripped by another student suicide. Again, we might easily forget.

Someone once said it takes a village to raise a child.

It will take our collective outrage, all our best intentions, all the little deaths we have died over these lost souls to snatch a troubled child from the jaws of suicide.

We can begin now or watch our future waste away.

– Contact us at [email protected]

RA

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