This paper reviews the prevalence, risk factors, and effectiveness of prevention programs for self-harm and suicide among children and adolescents in Hong Kong. Youth suicide rates declined gradually over the past two decades, but it is alarming to see that self-harm, suicidal thoughts, and attempts are quite common among junior secondary students. Local studies identify psychopathology (especially depression) and family relationship issues as the most common risk factors of suicide and self-harm, and impulsive control issues are an additional factor contributing to self-harm. In the second part, this paper reviews the evidence for six types of universal and selective prevention strategies identified from local and overseas literature: (1) restriction of access to means of suicide; (2) guidelines for responsible media reporting of suicides; (3) provision of quality mental healthcare to at-risk populations; (4) school-based screening and prevention programs; (5) online prevention, monitoring, and support programs; and (6) life skills training programs. Research evidence supports that the provision of high-quality mental health services to at-risk populations and some school-based prevention programs (awareness and screening, and gatekeeper training) are effective in suicide prevention. Further research efforts are needed to verify the impact of the other four strategies. Practitioners could make better use of new prevention programs through the internet and instant messaging platforms, which have the potential to alter attitude toward suicide and self-harm as well as promoting help seeking behavior among young people.
- Hong Kong
- Prevention, Prevalence, Risk
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Psychiatry and Mental health