According to our latest data, there were 845 suicides in 2014. The corresponding suicide rate was 12.3 per 100,000 persons. Although this number was slightly lower than that observed in 2013, the suicide rates in Hong Kong have been holding steady in the range of 12-14 per 100,000 persons over the past five years.
The CSRP continues to offer statistics by age-groups, gender, and methods on its website, but now with a much faster and more interactive data retrieval process than previously. The friendly user interface allows users to modify the period of data requested by directly moving the cursor across the time axis in the graphical representation on the webpage. Data on self-harm will be available on our website in 2016.
Suicide Prevention Efforts
Suicides among youth have made local headlines again and again in 2015 and caused great concern in our society. Our future generation faces challenges that are unique in this present time. The CSRP recognizes that these challenges warrant special attention, and has put its focus of prevention efforts with youth in 2015.
Seeking help in time is critical in suicide prevention, yet many at risk, especially youth, are often unaware of the assistance available or reluctant to get it even when there is a need. To enhance awareness of the importance of timely intervention, the CSRP promoted “Reaching Out & Inspiring Lives” on the World Suicide Prevention Day last year. Two youths and their social workers shared their positive experiences with online outreach services targeted at young people.
Cross-sectoral support has always been important in CSRP’s efforts for suicide prevention. We are happy to have gained immense support from our partners in the community, such as those from the media, Hong Kong Police Force, Fire Service Department, and Hong Kong Poison Information Centre. We are also proud to report positive outcomes from this solid partnership in preventing further spread of newer suicide methods.
In response to numerous youth suicides in the North District in 2010, the Centre started a community collaboration project with the aim of strengthening suicide prevention efforts in the region. This project provided training for various parties that may come in contact with high-risk groups including teachers, various first responders and providers of social services. Training ranged from screening, emotional support, and referrals. This project ended in March 2015, and communities in the region have built stronger capacity for preventing suicides and self-harm.
Our role in monitoring suicide reporting in the media has grown in the past few years due to fast growing online communication platforms. We continue to engage different traditional media outlets, to express our concerns over inappropriate ways of reporting on suicide news. Great improvement has been observed in the process. An updated set of media guidelines, namely, “Recommendation on Suicide Reporting and Online Information Dissemination for Media Professionals”, was published in 2015. As a revamp of the 2004 version, the new sets of guidelines reflected feedback collected from media professionals on the 2004 version and their suggestions on how media can further support suicide prevention. The new set also included guidelines for preparing coverage of suicide stories for online distribution.
Recognizing how fast information spreads online, we also engaged Internet search engines, such as Baidu Google, in designing suicide preventive strategies for internet users. This engagement was successful with both Baidu and Google agreeing to the removal of some of the pro-suicide pages hosted under their blogs, and instead list websites for crisis centres and other prevention services as top search results upon searching of suicide-related keywords.
The Charcoal Burning study has demonstrated visible impact on raising the awareness of suicide prevention among Internet service providers since its launch.
After we exchanged our knowledge with Baidu, Baidu search engine launched a search box function to display contact information and website of a national suicide prevention helpline when people search “suicide” in the mid of April, 2015. We are working closely with Baidu to extend the function to other suicide-related keywords.
The Charcoal Burning project looks at an increasing method of suicide and investigates action that can be taken as part of a means reduction approach.
After a concerted effort targeting SH behaviours and suicide in the community in the past three years, the North District is a more mentally resilient place today.
Promotion and training resources developed through the project continue to support ongoing preventive measures for SH behaviours and suicide in the District and beyond. In addition, the evidence collected in the process plays an important role in shaping future prevention strategies.
The North District project ended in March 2015 and is currently preparing reports to summarize its findings.