College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences
Early Identification of Potential Emotional Problems in Youth to Reduce Suicidal Risk

The recent rising student suicide rates alarm the Hong Kong educators and counsellors. In view of this startling trend, the Hong Kong Caritas Family Services launched Caritas Jockey Club “Family. Friends. Navigation” Community Partnership Program in 2018 to promote mental well-being and encourage students to treasure lives. The Program was funded by the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust and the Department of Social and Behavioural Sciences of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences was invited to conduct a study on the effectiveness of this meaningful Program.

Aiming at reducing suicidal risk of students, the Program adopted three levels of intervention. At the first level (Universal Prevention), the Program educated the students and parents the message of positivity and provided mentor training for teachers, students and community members to identify and assist adolescents with emotional distress. At the second level (Selective Prevention), early intervention services will be given to support Primary 5 to Form 2 students and their families, while at the third level (Indicated Prevention), those with emotional distress among the group will be identified and given support. Dr Sylvia KWOK LAI Yuk Ching, Associate Professor of the Department of Social & Behavioural Sciences, who was responsible for evaluating the effectiveness of the program, shared that the “Three-tier Intervention Support Model” of the program achieved remarkable results in enhancing students’ subjective happiness, resilience and self-efficacy.

Dr Sylvia Kwok said that about 30% of the primary and secondary school students interviewed had potential emotional problems and suicidal potential. “The finding reflected that changes in family structure and environment, such as single parent families, progression to secondary school, adaptation to new social network, can easily cause emotional problems for students,” she said.

“Students who have strong feeling of hopelessness, thwarted sense of belonging, and perceived burdensomeness, will be easier to have suicidal thoughts. Enhancing subjective happiness, resilience, and self-efficacy (the ability to cope with and control the environment) could help lower the suicidal risk,” Dr Sylvia Kwok continued.

The investigating team provided recommendations with reference to the results of the study, such as building a long-term protective network and providing sustainable concern on individuals who are in need. They also recommended relevant parties to deploy resources to enhance parental emotional management and discipline work.