HK Psychologists Concern has come out in support of the Education Bureau’s “no-suicide contracts” amid debate online.

A copy of the contract – which have been made available by the bureau to schools since 2011 – was widely circulated on the internet on Monday night. The document came from an eBook published by the Education Bureau aimed at preventing student suicide. The English version was last updated in October 2015.

The professional concern group said that contracts are a “commonly used and effective method” for therapy sessions. “The hope is that through the process of writing the contract, its contents will be highlighted and actualised,” it said.

The process of building the contract includes listing out persons to call and methods that are effective in reducing anxiety. It also asks the student to list a person that “cares deeply” about them and “does not want me to harm myself.”

No-suicide contract. Photo: Gov HK.

The contract could be helpful for students who may be in a confused state, as it would “increase [the] chances of them remembering ways to help themselves when they are tempted to commit suicide,” it added.

It urged netizens to stop criticising the contract so that students who seek help will not lose confidence in the contract.

However, Cheng Lap, a former teacher, said on Facebook that “this [contract] is being talked about now because society has worsened to such a bad state. What reason do we have to continue to say that this kind of contract, because it is used by social workers, is effective and cannot be criticised? That if there wasn’t such a contract more people would commit suicide?”

Chow Tsz-yan, a teacher and student guidance officer, told Stand News: “I understand that this tool is not necessarily useful, and there is controversy between [different] schools of thoughts. But according to experience, in cases where a relationship has already been established with the student, it is a fairly effective shield and can function as a gatekeeper.”

The psychologists group added that, although it did not think there were problems with the “no-suicide contract,” it said that the eBook published by the Education Bureau was “difficult to understand and messy.”

This month, Hong Kong saw seven student suicides in the space of nine days.

If you are experiencing negative feelings, please call: The Samaritans 2896 0000 (24-hour, multilingual), Suicide Prevention Centre 2382 0000 or the Social Welfare Department 2343 2255. The Hong Kong Society of Counseling and Psychology provides a WhatsApp hotline in English and Chinese: 6218 1084.

Chantal Yuen

Chantal Yuen is a Hong Kong journalist interested in issues dealing with religion and immigration. She majored in German and minored in Middle Eastern studies at Princeton University.