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    Mar 21, 2016

    22 HK student suicides since Sept 'disturbing'


    TWENTY-TWO students killed themselves in six months - this unusually high figure has made the government, social workers and youth experts of Hong Kong sit up in alarm and frantically search for explanations for the trend and measures to curb it.

    The latest student suicide that took place on March 9 was the fourth in five days and involved an undergraduate from the University of Hong Kong (HKU).

    The 22 cases came after the latest school year started in September - a figure the HKU Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention said is disturbing as on average 23 students took their lives every year between 2010 and 2014.

    According to Law Yik Wa, project director of the centre, student suicide cases tend to surge in September after school re-opens and level off from January, reported the hk01 online newspaper.

    But this time, in little more than two months in the new year, there have been 10 student suicides.

    Reasons driving the trend suggested by the worried parties include high academic pressure stemming from an examination-oriented educational system, poor social life as young people spend much more time now on the Internet, and communication breakdown in families.

    Academic pressure seems to be the biggest culprit as eight out of the 10 who ended their lives this year had expressed fear that they could never handle their studies, said hk01.

    The new so-called 3-3-4 system, which allows progress to university after six years in a secondary school, might also be at fault, as students have to face the rigours of tertiary education one year earlier than their seniors in the past, said psychology professor Paul Yip, who leads the HKU centre.

    That explained why there were 10 undergraduates in the 22 cases, as compared with no more than three each year from 2010 to 2014, added Prof Yip.

    Joyce Chow, chairman of Hong Kong's Samaritan Befrienders, pointed out that only 5 per cent of all calls to her organisation's hotline last year to seek counselling help came from people below 20 years old, reported the immediahk news website.

    This compares alarmingly with 25 per cent in 1995, she said.