The upward trend in the rate of youth suicide in recent years has caused social concern. The challenges faced by young people such as physical change, family relationships, growth, study and interpersonal relationships can easily affect their emotions. Improper handling of such negative emotions can in turn affect their physical and mental health, and even lead them to develop suicidal thoughts.
To help the community become more effective in supporting students in need, The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust has donated HK$21 million to initiate the Jockey Club Embrace Life Series, bringing together Caritas – Hong Kong, Suicide Prevention Services and The Samaritan Befrienders Hong Kong.
The Jockey Club Embrace Life Series is aimed at combining the strengths and experiences of the three NGOs with multi-pronged measures to encourage young people to embrace life together.
Under this project, three programmes will be implemented with the support of schools and parents to identify students who are emotionally distressed, provide support to such students and their families, and raise public awareness of mental health. Together, they are working with 80 schools at this stage. The programmes are expected to benefit over 8,000 students, parents, teachers and volunteers over the three years, as well as providing some 500 sessions of emotional counselling for needy students and parents.
1. Jockey Club ‘Life Coaching’ Community Support Network
To identify students who need intervention, Caritas and the Department of Applied Social Sciences at City University of Hong Kong conducted a questionnaire survey in September and October last year with 449 Primary Five and Primary Six students from two schools, and 464 Secondary One students from four schools. The Child Adolescent Suicide Potential Index was adopted in the survey; students who scored 11 or above were classified as vulnerable cases.
The results showed that 31% of primary school respondents and 40% of secondary school respondents were rated as vulnerable cases. When facing challenges like going to secondary school and adapting to a new social circle, students were more likely to be emotionally distressed. The survey also showed that if students felt helpless and perceived themselves as burdens of others, their suicide risk was higher. In contrast, if the students felt happy and recognised their self-efficacy, their suicide risk was lower.
Caritas will offer clinical services for vulnerable students and their parents, and refer students with suicide risk and emotional problems to social workers, clinical psychologists and Integrated Family Service Centres for follow-up services. In addition, training will be provided for students, parents and teachers to raise their awareness and facilitate early identification of needy young people.
2. Jockey Club ‘Life Cherishing’ Project
This project run by Suicide Prevention Services is aimed at providing peer-to-peer emotional support through volunteer services. After comprehensive training, volunteers will be empowered to be the gatekeepers for young people at risk. Engagement activities will also be organised to enhance young people’s self-adjustment ability and knowledge of emotional health, establishing positive values. Teachers and parents will be equipped with knowledge of early identification and intervention.
3. Jockey Club Life-Connect Resource Network
The Samaritan Befrienders Hong Kong are building an online resources platform offering videos and life education learning materials to raise public understanding of suicide prevention and offer appropriate support when people face negative emotions. Teachers and social workers will be trained to strengthen their suicide risk assessment and handling capacity.
The Club’s Charities Trust has supported different initiatives to prevent suicide for many years. Projects include the establishment of The Hong Kong Jockey Club Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention; the city’s first Life Education Centre set up by The Samaritan Befrienders Hong Kong; and the Outreach Befriending Service for Suicidal Elderly under a Hong Kong Jockey Club Community Project Grant.