By Carol Szeto, CEO of Save the Children Hong Kong

【7 Dec, 2023】Hong Kong, a city known for its academic excellence and bustling energy, is facing a deeply concerning issue: the escalating student suicide rates. Hong Kong records 31 suspected pupil suicides in in first 11 months of 2023, reaching a 10-year high. These figures highlight the urgent need for immediate intervention and comprehensive support systems to address this distressing trend.

Academic Pressure and Beyond:

Hong Kong’s education system is renowned for its rigorous standards, placing immense pressure on students to excel academically. However, we must recognize that a narrow focus on grades alone can have detrimental effects on students’ mental health. It is essential to shift our perspective and acknowledge the value of a well-rounded education that nurtures social and emotional development alongside academic success.

Fostering Social and Emotional Well-being:

To combat the rising student suicide rates, we must prioritize the social and emotional well-being of our children. Comprehensive mental health programs should be implemented in schools, incorporating counselling services, stress management techniques, and emotional resilience training. Equipping students with tools to navigate life’s challenges will empower them to develop healthy coping mechanisms and build strong support networks.

The Role of Families:

Parents play a crucial role in shaping their children’s mental well-being. Encouraging positive parenting practices that emphasize open communication, active listening, and emotional support is essential. By fostering a nurturing home environment, parents can help alleviate the pressures their children face outside the home. Additionally, parents should prioritize self-care, as their own well-being directly impacts the family dynamic.

Collaborative Efforts:

Addressing the student suicide crisis requires a collective effort from all stakeholders in society. Schools, parents, educational authorities, mental health professionals, and policymakers must collaborate to develop comprehensive and evidence-based strategies. This includes destigmatizing mental health issues, promoting awareness campaigns, and ensuring accessible and affordable mental health services for all students.

Investing in Support Systems:

To effectively combat the rising student suicide rates, it is crucial to allocate adequate resources to support mental health initiatives. This includes hiring more school counsellors and mental health professionals, providing teacher training in mental health awareness, and establishing helplines and online platforms where students can seek help anonymously. By investing in these support systems, we can create safe spaces for students to express their concerns and receive the assistance they need.

At Save the Children, we invest in children’s futures. We must act now, as the alarming rise in student suicide rates in Hong Kong demands immediate attention and action. By advocating for reduced academic pressure, promoting social and emotional development, encouraging positive parenting, and investing in mental health support systems, we can create a nurturing and inclusive environment that allows our students to thrive academically, emotionally, and mentally. It is our collective responsibility to recognize the urgency of this crisis and provide the support our children desperately need.