Depressing aftermath needs healing

Editorial | Mary Ma 4 Jul 2019

It's a matter of grave concern when members of the public get so depressed as a direct result of the bitter controversy over the extradition bill.

The gravity can't be stressed enough, and doesn't require official explanation for the common mind to understand. People with a history are especially vulnerable in such a situation, and may be hit harder than others by negative news.

Perhaps Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor should be blamed for taking a half-hearted step to suspend the bill rather than scrapping it entirely. But others - including both pan-democrats and government supporters - can't escape blame either.

However, finger-pointing is no longer of immediate urgency.

So far into the crisis, several people have resorted to suicide in protest of the bill. Yesterday, the tally might have risen by another one, as a man left a note on Facebook before dawn, saying he was going to Pacific Place in Admiralty, where a protester had accidentally fallen to his death on June 15.

Fears abounded the man, who hadn't updated his Facebook page, might do the foolish thing. Volunteers and some pan-democrats started searching the area, and luckily the man was located at IFC mall in Central about nine hours later.

What was he planning to do there? I don't have a clue, but I'm truly glad he was found, since this may at least have prevented another from ending his life needlessly.

It's common that whenever a major incident occurs, many people would feel greatly disturbed. On that dreadful night of October 1, 2012, society was totally shocked - then upset - after two ferries collided off Lamma Island, resulting in 39 deaths and 92 people injured. A number of citizens were so distressed that they had to seek counselling, after viewing the aftermath on television.

Following the latest conflicts on the extradition bill, the Social Welfare Department opened a hotline (2343 2255) for anyone suffering from emotional issues to call for assistance. That's a standard response, but I wonder if it goes far enough in light of the seriousness of the case.

I'm certain others can help too. Let's say Facebook. In addition to deleting postings deemed to be inappropriate, can its administrators check the content and refer suspicious suicidal cases to the concerned non-governmental organizations or SWD, after they're alerted to flagged content involving keywords like suicide threats?

I hope Hong Kong can get past the emotional doldrums quickly. Anyone of influence, particularly those in the administration, needs to understand that the longer the row-turned depression is allowed to persist, the greater the danger it can pose in future.

After condemning the protests, the government must be seen to be working to heal the social rifts, and these steps have to be concrete in order to be assuring.

While it's fine to offer a telephone hotline to help those suffering from depression, I fear that it's ruefully inadequate - if not already too little, too late.

Don't policymakers get it when hundreds of thousands of people were so angry that they had to turn out to make their voices heard?

Do something to heal the rifts!

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