Watching officials scurrying around trying to find a solution to the awful problem of teen suicides points to how out of touch they are with Hong Kong’s youth. Telling people who are sick and afraid to “go for help” or “go see a doctor” underscores the message that our health system is outdated and nowhere near addressing the very real needs of teenagers.
Just recently, the World Health Organisation suggested that teenagers be treated as their own group. This is a radical shift in policy where previously focus has been placed on women and children. In one way this is good news, in that it makes states more aware of the fact that services cannot be planned on a one-size-fits-all basis.
Adults don’t understand this. Just like mothers tell their children when they refuse to eat ... “think of all the starving kids in Africa”, so adults think citizens are blessed to have whatever services are available. In a sense they are right. Hong Kong is a very modern city with a wealth of opportunities, and teenagers here have it much better than anywhere else.
But services that are unable to serve are just as useless as services that are not available. We have to make those services accessible to the client – teenagers.
Hong Kong could have the best care in the world, but unless it reaches teenagers it will be useless.
They will rather suffer in silence or turn to their own social space to find solutions: online.
It is no secret that turning to the internet for help is not the best thing to do, for so many reasons. But this should not continue to be the case.
If officials are serious about helping the youth they need to be online and thinking about creative ways to reach those in need. There are organisations who would love to do this kind of work, but lack funding. One thing the government does not lack is funding.