Mental-health institutions have voiced serious concerns about the increasing number of people who feel distressed and suicidal amid the ongoing protest against an extradition bill.
The reaction comes after one man and two women committed suicide by jumping from heights reportedly because of the introduction of the contentious bill. A chief psychologist with the government has also called on anyone with an emotional-health problem to seek help.
The three deceased allegedly felt desperate about the bill and the future of Hong Kong as Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor failed to respond when she was asked if she had listened to young people’s voices.
Some members of the public have also accused her of being cold-blooded and not offering condolences, leading many young people to feel hopeless as they believe that no matter how many people took to the streets or paid with their lives, Lam’s administration would not listen to their demands.
OpenUp.hk, an online emotional support platform for people aged 11 to 35, said it received 200 cases a day after the first suicide in June. The number of cases jumped to 300 after two more people reportedly killed themselves to express their anger over the handling of the extradition-bill saga, Ming Pao Daily reported.
Before the turmoil, the platform received an average of 50 cases a day. Reported cases reached 400 then dropped to 150 after the Legislative Council building was stormed on Monday.
Tsang Chin-kwok, executive director of the suicide-prevention center Samaritan Befrienders Hong Kong, said it launched an outreach program in Admiralty in mid-June and had assisted 24 people. Among them, three people showed a very strong will to commit suicide. Their thoughts included the urge to commit suicide or get shot by police to “sacrifice” their lives.
Tsang said that after Monday’s action, people would feel tired and would rest to settle their emotions. But those involved in the storming of LegCo or the break-in would start worrying about their arrest in the coming days.
Another non-government organization, Caritas Family Crisis Support Centre, said it had received 102 calls since June, with the majority of help-seekers feeling distressed after reading the news or watching TV news.
Some callers were parents who were worried about the safety of their children and cyberbullying incidents on social media.
The Hong Kong Red Cross received 99 calls from young people and the elderly. Most of them felt scared, angry, worried and sad after reading or watching news about the bill and the protests.
On Wednesday morning, a man posted on Facebook that he was angry at the government over the extradition-bill issue and said he was ready to end his life.
When the post went out through Telegram, online forum LIHKG and Facebook, about 40 people, including online citizens and lawmakers, went to Admiralty and Central in Hong Kong to try to find the man.
Eventually, the man was found in Central and was assisted by a social worker, according to lawmaker Alvin Yeung’s Facebook.
Chan Yiu-kei, the chief clinical psychologist from the Social Welfare Department, said society has recently been filled with a gloomy atmosphere and some people might even feel emotionally disturbed as they perceive that they have no solution, according to a government release.
Chan said people with strong emotions may reflect that what has happened in the community matters to them and urged anyone who feels distressed to talk to friends or seek help from a professional.
“It will help you to overcome this difficult time if your emotions are understood and accepted by others,” said Chan, who also advised people who want to support others to take care of themselves first. “Take a good rest so that you may clear your mind and calm your heart in order to face the situation in a better way.”
Regarding recent suicidal messages on social media, Chan urged people to cherish their life.
The Hong Kong Association of Doctors in Clinical Psychology appealed for all sides to face the turmoil calmly and urged the government to listen to the various stakeholders and review the cause of the unrest to soothe public emotions.
Members of the public can call the Social Welfare Department’s 24-hour hotline at +852 2343 2255 for assistance.