Leaders in Hong Kong decided Thursday to increase the presence of counselors in schools in hopes of improving students' mental health and reversing a recent alarming trend of suicides. At an emergency education bureau meeting Thursday, authorities announced they would send psychologists to train teachers and administrators at more than 1,000 schools on how to identify at-risk students and get them help, the Standard reported.
"Student suicide cases involve the precious life of students; the bureau has unshakable responsibility," the South China Morning Post reported Education Secretary Eddie Ng Hak-kim said at the meeting. "We need to work closely with all stakeholders to tackle related problems."
Hong Kong has had 22 students kill themselves since the 2015-2016 academic year began, including four in a five-day period. Their ages ranged from 11 to 22.
One teen who committed suicide in January left behind a note that read "unhappy life, want to go to another world," and earlier this month another told his mother he was "tired and did not want to go to school and live anymore."
"Every suicide affects at least 6 families." 400+ people at 'When Suicide Happens' workshop. Hong Kong is hurting. pic.twitter.com/cFSJCHjRzY
— Hannah Lau (@hannahlau) February 4, 2016
Experts have suggested Hong Kong's intense focus on rigorous schoolwork may be contributing to kids' anxiety, according to the Hong Kong Free Press. Psychotherapist Dorothy Wong recently said parents may be inadvertently pressuring their children out of concern for their futures. Paul Yip Siu-fai, director of the University of Hong Kong's Center for Suicide Research and Prevention, told the Standard that schools should be careful to "consider a student's ability to deal with difficulties and pressure instead of just chalk and talk."
The education bureau plans to investigate the recent student suicides and come up with a set of measures to prevent additional ones. But it's not the only group responding to the deaths. Yip's center announced it would develop a program on the texting app WhatsApp to give young users information on how to get help, while the mental health organization Samaritan Befrienders has begun to keep its online suicide help forum open for longer periods of time, according to the Post.