The Child Fatality Review Panel published its third report on the prevention of child death on August 31. The report contains 45 recommendations for the prevention of avoidable child fatality following an analysis of the child death cases in 2012 and 2013 reported to the Coroner's Court.

The review covered the deaths of 206 children aged below 18 who died of natural and non-natural causes. Out of the 75 deaths due to non-natural causes, 20 of them died by suicide. Among these child or youth suicide cases, 14 persons jumped from height to their death, with the youngest one aged only 11.

Schoolwork problems topped the list of reasons of committing suicide

According to the report, the main reasons for children or youths committing suicide were found to be related to schoolwork problems, worrying about their future and relationship problems with family members or boyfriends or girlfriends.

Under-achievers in schools might be more worried about their future, since the report explained that they usually carried a failure role as they did not recognise their own strengths or potentials, and was unaware of different academic or career paths for advancements that they might also achieve high in areas where their potentials rest.

70% of cases had identifiable suicidal signs before actual attempts

What is more disturbing is that the report pointed out that the majority of children who committed suicide had identifiable suicidal signs before they made actual attempts.

Some children were observed to have manifested behavioural changes such as becoming quieter or more easily irritable when they experienced stresses or crisis, some also showed signs of emotional disturbance.

However, these signs of crisis were usually not picked up by their family members, school personnel or helping professionals working with these children. The report suggested early detection of these signs together with timely professional intervention might have helped prevent their deaths.

In addition, the report highlighted that some children suffering from chronic illness might have emotional distress and frustration, particularly in face of coping with their study. The report thus emphasised that family members and medical practitioners should be alert of the children’s perception of the difficulties they encounter, as well as the frustration they have arising from their chronic physical illness, such that timely emotional support could be rendered to them. MIMS

Read more:
Gone too soon: A spate of youth suicides in Hong Kong
Bringing suicides down to zero – can it be achieved?
The no-suicide contract: does it help?