Schools need more resources to handle cases involving troubled students, according to research conducted by The Hong Kong Council of Social Service.
The council surveyed social workers based at 419 secondary schools between July and October last year.
After calculating the number of social workers available and their workload, the council found that they can only spend on average 14.2 hours providing support for each case relating to suicide. This is less than half of the required 33 hours’ support the council says is needed to handle these types of cases.
The survey also showed that in the last school year, school social workers handled nearly 30,000 student cases, with 2,321 involving suicidal thoughts or actions. About 20 per cent of cases involved “mental health” – behaviour that affected a student’s regular life. This includes irritable or rebellious behaviour, mood swings, or crying easily.
The council’s Business Director, Anthony Wong Kin-wai, said this was only “the tip of the iceberg”, and that there are still students in need who have not received support.
“In the event the demand for services is overloaded, frontline social workers have little room to seek out potential cases where students are unwilling to reach out, and therefore can only deal with the most serious cases,” said Wong.
Forty per cent of “mental health cases” came from band one schools, compared to 34.9 per cent from band two schools and 25.1 per cent from band three schools.
“Many students have mental health problems, but are scared of being labelled as a mental health patient so they refuse to seek help or be diagnosed,” he added.
The council said more resources and policies were needed to tackle mental health issues among youngsters.