Social worker on student suicides: talk to young people!

Social worker on student suicides: talk to young people!

Government acting alone is no solution to the crisis

Frontline school social workers called for talks between all concerned – including young people – on the spate of youth suicides which has hit Hong Kong.

In all, 22 students have killed themselves since school started in September.

And on Friday the education bureau met school representatives, while the social welfare department separately met social workers to discuss damage control measures.

"The Education Bureau introduced measures [on Thursday] without talking to the school social workers. [The bureau and the schools] do their own thing, and we do ours – a good solution on a youth issue will need all of our expertise together, not separately,” said a social worker who did not want to be named, who attended the meeting of representatives from the 34 NGOs providing secondary schools with social workers.

You're not alone

Another social worker said many in the meeting echoed those thoughts, and stressed there should be an opportunity where all parties could sit down and discuss not just increasing psychological support, but reforming the education system which had been a source of immense stress for students, parents and teachers.

Since September last year to Wednesday, 12 secondary pupils – as young as 11 – and 10 university students have killed themselves.

A Social Welfare Department spokeswoman said it will carry on with the “one social worker per school” scheme to provide counselling to students facing stress or emotional problems, and to step up “positive life education”. There will also be training for staff on counselling youth with stress and emotional issues.

“We need to engage the youth as well – we are talking about services for them, ” the social worker said.

Aided Primary School Heads Association chairman Raymond Lai Tsz-man, who attended the Education Bureau’s meeting with primary school representatives, said a psychologist at the meeting suggested the government add "mental education" to the curriculum to teach pupils how to handle emotional issues and how to offer help to their peers.

20th student dies

Lai said the bureau did not make comment about the idea at the meeting but did not reject it.

He also said the bureau didn't provide enough resources for schools to hire school-based social workers.

Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun, a former secretary for education, said schools and parents shared responsibility for shaping schoolchildren’s mentalities.

"They should no longer keep telling students to see university entrance as the goal," Law, a National People's Congress member attending the Two Sessions in Beijing, said. "What matters more is a happy school life."


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