Early Identification and Intervention of Youth Suicide Clusters in Hong Kong

The purpose of the “Early Warning & Surveillance System for Suicide Prevention” is to present key data related to suicide in an accessible manner for education professionals, social workers, academics, the government, as well as those who value lives and desire to build a community towards “zero suicide”.

Users are recommended to access the data in conjunction with the information provided in the Warning Signs, Gatekeepers, and Seek Help pages. We hope to raise public’s awareness about suicide and support suicide prevention forces to understand the “gatekeeper” approach, identify at-risk groups, and develop effective interventions.

Since 2002, the Hong Kong Jockey Club Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention (CSRP) has been carrying out leading research of the causes and prevention of self-harm and suicide, and collaborating with local and international partners to promote the public health approach to suicide prevention. In addition to research and advocacy, CSRP coordinates training and interventions to promote good mental health in the community. It is Hong Kong’s primary suicide surveillance centre, monitoring self-harm and suicide trends and providing accurate information to media and policymakers.

Supported by the Quality Education Fund (QEF), CSRP has initiated the “Early Identification and Intervention of Youth Suicide Clusters in Hong Kong” project since 2018. By applying machine learning, we are able to estimate the number of suicide cases, identify groups with high suicide risks, and establish a surveillance and early warning system that can ultimately raise public’s and schools’ awareness of suicide. In addition, school is an effective platform when it comes to preventing youth suicide as youth mental health literacy can be enhanced by providing training to students, parents, teachers, and schools workers. With such training, they would be able to identify warning signs in time and offer help to students suffering from emotional distress.

The reporting process for unnatural deaths in Hong Kong typically takes time ranging from 6 to 12 months; it involves police investigations and inquests (if necessary). It then requires the Coroner’s Court to determine whether suicide is the cause of death before being finally approved and reported by the Births and Deaths Registry and the Census and Statistics Department. Since it officially takes such long time to determine suicide cases and generate statistical data, conventional suicide monitoring systems usually suffer from a time lag of half to three years. To overcome this, CSRP estimates the number of suicide cases based on suicide-related news reported by the media every day giving insight into the current situation of suicide in Hong Kong. The nowcasting of suicide trend and “Suicide Risk Index” (Visit Early Warning System Page) calculated by machine learning reflect the current situation of suicide in Hong Kong and allows us to issue a series of warning signals ranging from ‘low’, ‘medium’ and ‘high’ to ‘crisis’ through the “Early Warning System for Suicide Prevention” (Visit Suicide Trend Page).

Based on news reports, we also analyse the regional distribution of suicide cases during different time periods. The system makes comparison of the current number of suicide cases to that of the same period last year (Visit Early Warning System Page). In addition, we attempt to identify recent high-risk group(s) for suicide and any underlying causes so as to enhance the suicide alertness and responses of the public and stakeholders in schools. Suicide prevention information and affirming messages can also be found from the Early Warning System. We hope to raise public’s awareness about suicide that everyone of us becomes more compassionate and understanding and the gatekeeper of one and other.

Funded by: