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Hong Kong Sees Alarming Spike in Suicides Amid Economic Downturn

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Hong Kong’s Coroner’s Court handled a record-breaking 1,092 suicide cases in 2023, the highest in 16 years, prompting urgent calls for greater social support, especially for younger residents.

The sobering figure, revealed by the Samaritan Befrienders Hong Kong support group, represented a 12-case increase from the previous year and underscored the growing mental health crisis facing the international financial hub.

More than half of the victims, around 573 individuals, were between the ages of 20 and 59, while 43 were 19 or younger. The remaining 473 cases involved those aged 60 and above.

“Hong Kong’s economic environment is in a state of a downturn, which might put pressure on people to strive harder to support their livelihoods,” said Clarence Tsang Chin-kwok, executive director of Samaritan Befrienders Hong Kong.

The group noted that over 50% of the suicides, 571 cases, were the result of individuals falling to their deaths – a particularly devastating statistic.

Tsang urged schools to closely monitor the emotional well-being of young people, a sentiment echoed by Professor Paul Yip Siu-fai, founding director of the Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention at the University of Hong Kong.

“The economic issue affected the middle aged most. While the health problems of the elderly are usually regarded as the major reasons for them to commit suicide,” Yip said, stressing the need to prioritize the mental and physical health of older residents.

The alarming rise in suicides has prompted the Samaritan Befrienders group to launch the “Chatpoint Youth Crisis Angel Training Program,” which aims to provide continuous emotional support to those in need through online chat rooms.

Paul Wong Wai-ching, an associate professor at HKU’s Department of Social Work and Social Administration, cautioned that the high suicide rate is likely to persist in the near future given Hong Kong’s ongoing economic and political challenges.

“It is expected that a sharp decrease in the number of suicide cases might not be happening next year,” Wong said.

The Education Bureau also revealed that 168 students with mental distress were referred to public psychiatry clinics through a school-based emergency mechanism between December last year and March, underscoring the urgent need for comprehensive mental health interventions across all age groups in Hong Kong.

The implementation of the scheme was extended from January until the end of this year.
If you have suicidal thoughts, or you know someone who is, help is available. For Hong Kong, dial +852 18111 for the government-run“Mental Health Support Hotline” or+852 2896 0000 for The Samaritans and +852 2382 0000 for Suicide Prevention Services. In the US, call or text 988 or chat at988lifeline.orgfor the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.