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HK takes Initiative in Tackling Elderly Suicide Problem

China Views

March 24, 2004

In face of the relatively high elderly suicide rate in Hong Kong, the special administrative region government has adopted strategies to tackle the problem. 

Secretary for Health Welfare and Food of the government Yeoh Eng-kiong talked about the problem and solutions when officiating at the opening ceremony of Asia-Pacific Regional Conference on Prevention of Elderly Suicide on Wednesday. 

According to Yeoh, the elderly suicide death rate in Hong Kong has always been higher than the suicide death rates in other age groups. In the 1990s, the death rate of suicide by older persons was around 30 per 100,000 elderly population, compared to 15 per 100,000 general population. 

The death rate of suicide by older persons had gradually decreased and stabilized to 26.7 in 2002. Yeoh estimated that the suicide rate went up slightly in the difficult year of 2003. 

To reduce the risk factors and strengthen the protective factors, the government has implemented a wide range of general services, said Yeoh. 

As introduced by Yeoh, the government has launched the Healthy Aging Campaign since 2001 to promote public awareness on the importance of healthy aging. Separately, the Department of Health,through its Elderly Health Services, also actively engages in the promotion of physical and psychosocial health among elders living in the community and in residential care homes. 

Many district elderly community centers run by non-governmental organizations also play an important role in providing social support to the elderly members, said Yeoh. 

Apart from general preventive services, the government has also developed specific prevention programs. The three-year Live Life! Joint Project on Prevention of Elderly Suicide is one of thecomponents of the conference, which aimed at increasing public awareness toward suicide by older persons, and providing counseling and psychogeriatric services to elders with suicidal risks, said Yeoh. 

The two-day conference, organized by the Hong Kong Council of Social Service, the Hong Kong Psychogeriatric Association and the Social Welfare Department, serves as a platform for the exchange of expertise among local and overseas practitioners in the promotion of mental wellness and prevention of elderly suicide.

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