Surge in teens seeking emotional help

Top News | Amy Nip 8 Jul 2019

An online platform for teenagers has received 400 calls for help within one day - more than a fourfold surge from normal times.

Open Up - catering to young people experiencing emotional distress - received 400 calls on June 16 and 30, with the anti-fugitive bill issue taking up half of all calls.

That compares with the 90 calls a day the platform - supported by funding from the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust - received before the crisis.

Callers reported emotional disturbance and insomnia, said the platform's clinical supervisor, Shirley Chow. They also felt helplessness, loss in what to do next, and disappointment.

Wanting to avoid a dressing down by parents, youngsters need other channels to express their feelings, she said on radio yesterday.

With the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education results to be announced on Wednesday, she voiced caution that students' emotions may fluctuate further and conflicts may escalate. Those around them should pay attention to their emotions.

On the same radio program, assistant professor Lynn Tang from the Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention at the University of Hong Kong asked parents to allow their children to express their opinions even if they have different views.

If parents turn their backs on their children, "nothing can be done if they lose them," Tang said.

Families should protect their children, she said. If the children insisted on joining movements, parents should try to stay in touch with them.

Tang said the frustrations and disappointments of youngsters have been accumulating for years. Since the Occupy movement in 2014 ended, they felt room for political aspirations had narrowed.

She said opinions of youngsters should be taken into consideration, and that Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor should agree to meet youngsters in public.

"Desperation isn't built in a day," Tang said.

If youngsters felt stressed, they should avoid social media for a period of time. No social movement can succeed in one go, she said.

Tang said those who commit suicide should not be made heroes, adding it is not a method of resistance that should be endorsed. And a depressed atmosphere is created following reports about suicides, affecting those who are not emotionally stable.

"When they identify with the person who committed suicide, they feel worse," she said. "It does not matter whether the person joined the movement. They would both be affected by the atmosphere."

On Thursday, a 28-year-old woman who opposed the fugitive bill died after falling from a height in Cheung Sha Wan. She was the fourth person to commit suicide during the controversy.

There will be a vigil for Leung Ling-kit, the first protester who died on June 15. His family will organize a vigil at Hong Kong Funeral Home on Thursday, which will be for family, friends and associates only - not for the public. The funeral will be the next day.

A public vigil area will be set up separately at Java Road Playground from 2pm to 10pm on the same day.

On Saturday, a vigil was held at Edinburgh Place for a 29-year-old woman who died on June 30 - the third casualty.

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