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Friday, August 26, 2016, 00:49

Campaign aims to reduce risk of student suicide

By Dara Wang

HONG KONG - The government launched a city-wide campaign among secondary and primary schools on Thursday to offer support to students at risk of suicide.

The move came after more than 20 student suicides were reported in the past academic year in Hong Kong. This has made youth mental health issue a priority for education authorities.

By the “Joyful@School” campaign, the Education Bureau will put forward programs on multimedia platforms from September that release mental health messages to enhance understanding.

Activities such as "School Retreat Day" and bridging programs for Secondary 1 and Secondary 4 students will help them adapt to the new environment during their transition to a higher level of studying. These are also recommended ensuring students have a positive attitude at school.

The bureau also encouraged extra-curricular outward-bound activities to strengthen student's problem-solving capability and ability to cope with adversity.

Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim said schools could apply for a mini-fund within HK$150,000 under the Quality Education Fund to organize additional events if needed.

He also urged schools and parents to work more closely and pay extra attention to students' school work and daily life. "Care more, listen more and share more," Ng said.

Chairman of Hong Kong Subsidized Secondary Schools Council James Lam Yat-fung said young people at risk of suicide will normally talk to their peers first rather than to their parents when they are depressed. Therefore, schools have organized different kinds of group activities to enhance communication among students.

Lam also mentioned many secondary schools now provide one-week mental-health tutorial for students to adapt to school life.

Director of Health Constance Chan Hon-yee said the campaign will post uplifting comics on social media when the school term begins in September and will suggest approaches of handling mental problems during exams.

A series of sports activities including tai chi and yoga will be launched under the campaign. An event to engage students and their families will be held in Sha Tin in October, Chan said.

Student suicide incidents in the last academic year worried the city's education sector - not only primary and secondary schools but also tertiary institutions. In the 2015-16 academic year, 920 students at the Chinese University of Hong Kong asked for help from the school’s counseling team, according to school statistics.

The Committee on Prevention of Student Suicides was set up in March by the government to examine the causes and suggest preventive measures. It submitted a progress report in July, which listed 11 short-term and long-term recommendations. The measures include the roll-out of the Joyful@School campaign.

It is expected Ng will receive the full report by the committee in October.

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