Current Issues in Youth Suicide

Written by Professor Paul Yip and Jenny Huen

Suicide is a global problem affecting many different parts of the world (see Figure 1 for a map of suicide rates globally). The global suicide rate is about one million people per year, a rate of 14.5 per 100,000 people (WHO, 2010). In particular, suicide rates among young people have risen to such an alarming extent that 15 to 19 year olds are now at highest risk of suicide in a third of all countries, with suicide being the second leading cause of mortality for this age group globally (WHO, 2009).

Considering that the available statistics on suicide are generally based on completed suicides rather than attempted suicides, the figures may not fully capture the risk of suicidal behaviours. For example, mere exposure to suicide attempts by peers may place young people at risk of suicidal behaviour (Ho, et al., 2000). Taken together, young people can be expected to be the group at highest risk of suicide in the future.

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Figure 1 – Map of Suicide Rates (WHO, 2009)


Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention. (2010). Statistics. Retrieved 15 Nov 2010.

Ho, T. P., Leung, P. W. L., Hung, S. F., Lee, C. C., & Tang, C. P. (2000). The mental health of the peers of suicide completers and attempters. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 41, 301-308.

Law, C. K., Yip, P. S., Chan, W. S., Fu, K. W., Wong, P. W., & Law, Y. W. (2009). Evaluating the effectiveness of barrier installation for preventing railway suicides in Hong Kong. Journal of Affective Disorder, 114, 254-262.

Lewis, G., Hawton, K., & Jones, P. (1997). Strategies for preventing suicide. British Journal Psychiatry, 171, 351-354.

Mann, et al. (2005). Suicide prevention strategies: A systematic review. Journal of the American Medical Association, 294, 2064-2074.

Wasserman, D., Cheng, Q., & Jiang, G. X. (2005). Global suicide rates among young people aged 15-19. World Psychiatry, 42, 114-120.

Wong, P. W., Liu, P. M. L., Chan, W. S. C., Law, Y. W., Law, S. C. K., Fu, K. W., Li, H. S. H., Tso, M. K., Beautrais, A. L., Yip, P. S. (2009). An integrative suicide prevention program for visitor charcoal burning suicide and suicide pact. Suicide and Life Threatening Behaviour, 39, 82-90.

World Health Organization. (2009). Suicide prevention. Retrieved 15 Nov 2010.

World Health Organization. (2010). World Suicide Prevention Day. 10 September 2006: Many faces, many places: Suicide prevention across the world.

Yip, P. S. F. (2005). A public health approach to suicide prevention. Hong Kong Journal of Psychiatry, 15, 29-31.

Yip, P. S., Liu, K. Y., Law, C. K., & Law, Y. W. (2005). Social and economic burden of suicides in Hong Kong SAR. Journal of Crisis Intervention and Suicides Prevention, 26, 156-159.

Yip, P. S. F., Law, C. K., Fu, K. W., Law, Y. W., Wong, P. W. C., & Xu, Y. (2010). Restricting the means of suicide by charcoal burning. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 196, 241-242.

3 Responses to “Current Issues in Youth Suicide”
  1. Pasu AY

    I agree that suicide prevention is limited without an universal perspective on mental health.

  2. C. Ho

    Just wonder is there any analysis on what are the common issues that will induce stress on youth, which will eventually lead to suicide?

    • Sophia Chak (CSRP)

      Dear C.Ho,

      We have had studies looking into risk factors to suicide. From our data collected from the Coroner’s Court in 2009, suicide rate of male teenagers (ages 15-24) has experienced a 30% rise from 8.9 to 11.7 per 100,000 between 2008 and 2009, indicating a lack of problem-management skills and poor help-seeking tendencies. Amongst school drop-outs, the underemployed and unemployed, it is suggested that these young people are experiencing a 10 to 20-fold increase in suicide rate compared to those who are at school for the same sage group.

      As we learn from experience, young people are facing more interpersonal and social difficulties such as divorce of parents, relationship and academic stress. A wider social network and more accessible social support appeared to be protective factors to teenagers and people from the other age groups against suicide.

      To find out more, Mindmap offers more interesting articles about Teenagers and Community Collaboration in columns of “Youth” and “Community”.

      Reference to Academic Articles:

      Chan, W., Law, C., Liu, K., Wong, P., Law, Y., & Yip, P. (2009) Suicidality in Chinese adolescents in Hong Kong: the role of family and cultural influences. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 44, 278-284

      Chen, Eric Y. H., Chan, Wincy S. C., Wong, PAUL W. C., Chan, Sandra S. M., Chan, Cecilia L. W. , Law, Y. W., Beh, Philip S. L., Chan, K. K., Cheng, Joanne W. Y., Liu, Ka Y., Yip, P.S.F. Suicide in Hong Kong: a case-control psychological autopsy study. Psychological Medicine, Jun;36(6):815-25.

      Lam, T. H., Stewart, S. M., Yip, P. S. F., Leung, G. M., Ho, L. M., Ho, S. Y., Lee, P. W. H. (2004). Suicidality and cultural values among Hong Kong adolescents Social Science and Medicine, 58, 487-498.

      Sophia Chak
      Senior Research Assistant of Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention
      The University of Hong Kong

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