Children suicide cases on the rise: govt panel

A government advisory panel said 59 children aged below 18 committed suicide between 2016 and 2018, more than double the previous three-year period, prompting calls for authorities to boost a safety network for youngsters.

From 2013 to 2015, there were 28 reported suicide cases for children.

But the Children Review Fatality Panel said it could not conclude whether the latest figures showed an increasing trend in child suicide over the 10-year period from 2009 to 2018.

Publishing the findings of its latest report on Tuesday, the panel said there were 259 reported under-age deaths between 2016 and 2018.

Sixty-one percent died of natural causes, while about 23 percent – or 59 children – committed suicide, accounting for the second most common cause of death. Other deaths were caused by accident, assault, non-natural unascertained cause and medical complications.

The youngest suicide case involved a 10-year-old.

The panel said the causes of suicide are complex, but academic issues are believed to be a contributing factor in around 40 percent of the cases.

Among the suicide cases, 42 percent had received help from professionals such as social workers, teachers and psychiatrists. Dr Tang Chun-bun, a panel member and group convenor of suicide cases, said it could be difficult even for professionals to prevent tragedy from happening.

But he said parents, schools and other professionals could work together to strengthen the safety network.

“I can see that the professionals are trying their very best to identify those at risk. [But] even after that, there are still a lot of challenges because this is a big group. It’s even harder to identify which single individuals will end up in this tragedy, and even then, when or where,” Tang said.

“Therefore we believe that so-called comprehensive or integrated child care would be in the best interest of this group of students, meaning integrating the healthcare system, the social welfare system, the family. This is so-called the safety network. Very often it is this safety network that changes the mind of the suicidal youth and rescue their lives.”

The panel said parents should avoid putting too much emphasis on academic performance, while students can serve as gate-keepers if they find their peers are showing suicidal tendencies by reporting the cases to adults.