Divided opinions on the Education Bureau’s no suicide pledge's effectiveness

Divided opinions on the Education Bureau’s no suicide pledge's effectiveness

A pledge where students promise they won’t take their life seems ridiculous, but doctors say sometimes it could help


Secretary for Education Eddie Ng says the pledge was not meant for everyone.
Photo: Sam Tsang/SCMP

There is help out there. These  are 24-hour hotline if you need to talk:

Suicide Prevention Service: 2382 0000

The Samaritans: 2896 0000
The Samaritan Befrienders has extended its online chat forum from 8pm to 2am at help4suicide.com.hk

HKFYG Counselling Service: 2777 8899
HKFYG uTouch Portal has an online chat forum from 2pm to midnight (Monday to Saturday) at utouch.hk

An Education Bureau handbook to help pupils in crisis that includes a “pledge” promising they will not commit suicide has been ridiculed online, but social workers say it could be effective in some cases.

The pledge is part of an 88-page handbook for schools dealing with issues such as depression. Students fill out the information and promise not to take their lives if they feel under pressure, and instead call for help.

Clarence Tsang, Executive Director of The Samaritans, which provides 24-hour multilingual suicide prevention services, told Young Post yesterday the pledge could be useful under the right circumstances.

“The pledge [could be useful] in situations where clients, social workers and counsellors have established mutual trust,” says Tsang. “When students have any suicidal thoughts, the tool will remind them to talk to social workers or counsellors first before any suicidal attempts.”

Tsang says there seems to be a misunderstanding as the pledge is regarded as being reluctant to bear the responsibility to any suicide cases. “The public appears to misinterpret that the pledge can apply to any students at every moment. There should not be such case as the pledge should be used as a buffer which reminds students their promise not to commit suicide,” he says.

Social workers and mental health professionals also said there was a time and place for the pledge to be used.

“Under the right circumstances, the pledge is useful,” said veteran psychiatrist Tsang Fan-kwong. “But for it to become a campaign where regular students are encouraged to sign it ... there is no proof that it is useful. Suicide is a delicate issue and shouldn’t be dealt with publicly in this way.”

Social worker Dilys Lai Siu-ling from the Boys and Girls’ Clubs Association felt the pledge could be helpful for students to visualise and solidify their resolve to stay alive.

But Chinese University scholar Simon Shen Xuhui ridiculed it as a ploy by the government to claim credit for tackling the problem.

“If 100,000 students signed the pledge and only ‘a few’ committed suicide ... that’s a great statistic for officials to quote when they want a promotion,” Shen wrote on Facebook.

Education minister Eddie Ng Hak-kim criticised certain responses posted after the pledge went viral.

“The pledge is not for use by everyone, but for those after assessment by counselling and social work professionals,” Ng said on Tuesday.

Young Post is keeping the students we've lost and the students struggling in our thoughts. We hope for change, and in the meantime, this ribbon symbolises our concern, and our hope that you'll choose life. Because you matter to us. You're not alone.


This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Anti-suicide pledge might have merit


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