Rise in youth suicide amid pandemic, expert warns

The suicide rate of youths under 15 reached the highest record last year. The class suspension under the Covid-19 epidemic is among the factors that contributed to the figure, an expert said.

With data extracted from the Coroner's Court, the Hong Kong Jockey Club Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention estimated that the 2021 suicide rate1in Hong Kong was 12.3, which is higher than the 12.1 recorded in 2020.

The suicide rate of those under 15 reached a historical high of 1.7. Besides, the suicide rate of under-15 males has a one-fold increase from 1.2 in 2020 to 2.4 in 2021, while the females slightly decreased from 1.2 in 2020 to 1.0 in 2021.

"Class suspension affected students' mental health, which was partly a reason for the higher suicide rate," said Yip Siu-fai, the director of the centre and a professor at the University of Hong Kong.

He added that one out of four students killed themselves showed depression to study pressure and family relationships in their suicide notes.

Students do not have to go back to school and need to stay at home for online classes for a long time, Yip noted, which made it easier for them to get into conflict with their family members.

Yip said that lacking companionship due to employed parents and confined living environments also contributed to students' emotional problems.

Authorities should reconsider suspending classes on campus as Covid prevention measures while parents should spend more time with their kids. he added.

Moreover, from 1997 to the figure estimated for 2021, the suicide rate of males has remained consistently higher and double that of females (Males: 16.8; Females: 8.5). Compared to 2020, the overall suicide rate for males has a slight increase (16.2 to 16.8); however, the suicide rate for females has seen a slight decrease (8.7 to 8.5).

Within the elderly population, the suicide rate of men aged 60 or above showed a significant increase from 24.3 in 2020 to 27.3 in 2021, while the suicide rate of women aged 60 or above has revealed a slight decrease from 14.9 in 2020 to 14.6 in 2021.