Children leap to their deaths

A WEEK during which four school-aged Hong Kong children jumped to their deaths from highrise buildings and an eight-year-old girl tried to kill herself by leaping from a fifth-floor window has put the territory's education and social welfare authorities under increased pressure to combat an alarming growth in child and teenage suicides.

The death of a 16-year-old schoolgirl who jumped from the 21st floor of a housing-estate building on Sunday morning, leaving a note to say that she was 'experimenting' rather than trying to kill herself, came after an 11-year-old girl, a 14-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl had all leapt to their deaths in the space of a few days.

The latest death took place as a public discussion forum, attended by psychologists, educationalists and experts, was meeting to assess the possible causes of the upsurge in child suicides among Hong Kong Chinese over the past year. Recent days have also seen the first signs that some parts of Hong Kong's news-hungry media, shocked by the fact that someone as young as eight could attempt suicide, leaving a note for her parents, have decided to give less prominence to the deaths for fear that the 'copy-cat' factor may be playing a significant role in the increase.

Since the school year started in September there have been 14 school-aged suicides and about 30 unsuccessful attempts. The first signs that the problem was growing came in the 1991-92 school year when there were 21 suicides and 46 attempts. This showed a big jump from three child suicides in 1990-91, one in 1989-90 and eight in 1988-89.

Ruth Lau, the principal inspector of the Education Department's psychological services section, said yesterday that a detailed investigation of last year's child suicides had shown that the majority had suffered family-related problems and in the final stages had become severely depressed, losing all self-esteem. The youngest was just 10 years old. Other psychologists have suggested that pressure to succeed in an allegedly elitist school system is a factor. However, the possible reasons that are cited for the suicides do not in themselves appear to be new, and there is no clear reason for the big upsurge.

For several months the Education Department has been involved in a campaign to encourage schoolchildren to seek help if they are facing difficulties, and to educate teachers to be on the look-out for warning signs from vulnerable children.

A Cantonese television programme, Value for Life, featuring Hong Kong teen idols such as Andy Lau, the film star, and Michael Chang, the tennis player, talking about how they overcame setbacks in their own lives, is being shown in all schools with follow-up discussions.

'Understanding Student Suicide' kits have been isued to primary and secondary school teachers with advice on early detection and crisis intervention and teachers' workshops were held at the end of December.

Leaflets have been produced to encourage parents to talk to and spend time with their children. Many psychologists have stressed the need for highly-pressurised Hong Kong families, living in crowded conditions in housing estates, where both parents are working, sometimes with two jobs each, to make time for communication within the family.

The fears that high-profile newspaper and television coverage may have prompted some suicides through immitation are having an impact on the reporting of the deaths, at least in the English media. The South China Morning Post, for instance, ran only four paragraphs on an inside page on Sunday's death, and last night there were no follow-up stories on the English evening television news channels.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
people

Harry Potter actor suffered 'severe flu-like symptoms' on a flight from London to Orlando

Sport
Kim Sears is reported to have directed abuse at Berdych
tennis
News
news

Rap music mogul accused of running two men over in his truck

News
Gywneth Paltrow proposed that women seek out a special herbal steam-treatment service
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Toronto tops the charts across a range of indexes
news

World cities ranked in terms of safety, food security and 'liveability'

Voices
A mother and her child
voices
Arts and Entertainment
tv

First full-length look is finally here

Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
Tax now accounts for ‘nearly 80%’ of the price of a bottle of whisky
news

Arts and Entertainment
Peppa Pig wearing her golden boots
film

"Oink! Oink! Hee hee hee!" First interview with the big-screen star

Life and Style
tech

Biohacking group hopes technology will lead people to think about even more dystopian uses

Arts and Entertainment
film
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Film director Martin Scorsese
film
News
news

The party's potential nominations read like a high school race for student body president

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Continuous Improvement Manager

£41500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is going through a period o...

Recruitment Genius: Data Entry Administrator

£10670 - £16640 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: Regional Gas Installation Manager - South East England

£36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Regional Gas Installation Manager is r...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Service and Breakdown Engineer - South East

£29000 - £31000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Service and Brea...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee