It is interesting to know that past scientific research has shown that after media reports on a suicide case -- especially of someone famous -- not only does the number of suicides go up, but a majority of the people who kill themselves are the same sex as the celebrity and use similar methods. Examples cited were Hong Kong artist Leslie Cheung and Taiwanese entertainer Ni Min-jan, which (incidentally or not) led to a 55 percent increase in the number of people who unsuccessfully attempted suicide, with men outnumbering women by 2.6 times. It was found out that extensive coverage by the media (in the cases of Cheung and Ni in particular) had produced a mimic effect in the public.
According to Hong Kong University's Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention,
Suicide is one leading cause of death for those aged 15 - 24 in Hong Kong. This age group also has the highest admission rate for attempted suicide at the Accident and Emergency Departments of the Hospital Authority. Reported prevalence rates for adolescent suicidal ideation in Hong Kong range from 20 - 42%. Our latest findings from a representative sample of 715 respondents show that 28.1% of youth aged 15 - 19 have experienced life time suicidal ideation. Hence, the problem of youth suicidality (sic) warrants attention.
One of the immediate measures is to conduct extensive screening and assessment on the mental status of students. Early identification of students with emotional distress is crucial in providing them with the immediate interventions and help.
Despite of the alarming suicide rates in the young adults age-group, it is the elderly that are more vulnerable to this cause of death. Suicide over the past 15 years in Hong Kong, is more serious among the elderly than in any other age group at a rate four to five times above the mean rate of the general population. The highest suicide risk groups are the older elderly (that is, those aged 75 or above), males and the unmarried elderly. This study indicates that factors such as poor health status and limited social support may be linked to the higher incidence of elderly suicide, and demonstrates that a supportive home environment and an active life style can help the elderly to cope with crisis situations.
The suicide ratio of economically inactive aged persons to economically active aged persons is 10 to 1. A job for an elderly person not only means earning a living; it provides an active life style, which improves psychological well-being. The provision of job opportunities and the establishment of community support services such as multi-service centres, in particular for the homeless and unmarried, can also help to promote an active lifestyle. A job keeps an elderly person's brain active in dealing with tasks and solving problems. Meahwhile, those who are idle and not creative enough nor given opportunities, will likely have more troubles than their employed counterparts.
Patients with mental disorders are sometimes discriminated in Hong Kong, which puts a big burden among those who suffer. This situation exists even if the government has an ordinance regarding mental health:
This Mental Health Ordinance sets out necessary legal safeguards for mentally incapacitated persons (MIPs). Mental Health Guardianship Board Rules under the Ordinance provide for the setting up of an independent Guardianship Board to
enforce guardianship provisions for MIPs aged 18 years or above. Guardians appointed by the Board may be empowered to make important decisions affecting the daily life of MIPs, including handling of funds for their maintenance and giving consent for medical treatment.
A good read relating to this problem is an editorial (PDF) by the Department of Psychiatry of Chinese University of Hong Kong's Prince of Wales Hospital.
The number of highly qualified clinical psychologists in Hong Kong is greatly limited. Social workers in Hong Kong are heavily loaded with social assessments, arrangement of tangible benefits, mobilization of community resources, and statutory duties. They are haphazardly rotated in and out of psychiatric settings and lack specialized knowledge and skills.
Worse, I was told that there's no insurance coverage for mental health. Therefore, sufferers have little or no option to find assistance regarding their grievances.
Given the problem as described above, online support groups are almost nonexistent in Hong Kong. Support groups via the web could provide a boost in assisting these type of patients who may be stigmatized by the society.
Benita Chick has just established Hong Kong Mental Health Support Group to help fellow patients suffering ailments related to mental health.
It is ironic that when people encounter patients with mental health problems, they generally shun them away, but when a popular TV star confesses of suffering such disease, the interest grows. Therefore these personalities have become effective channels of reaching out to the public. Unfortunately, Leslie Cheung is dead.