Online groups have offered emotional support to protesters after four people linked to the campaign against the extradition bill died. Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung, meanwhile, expressed sorrow on Friday over the incidents.
The services being offered include anonymous chat forums, a “social movement emotion secrets” channel – where people can express their emotions – and another outreach platform run by the professional group HK Psychologists Concern.
Ip Kim-ching, a clinical psychologist behind one of the services, said on a D100 online radio programme on Wednesday that young people may feel unable to express their emotions.
“People around them should observe and notice their emotions, and the second step is to listen,” Ip said. “They may feel very pessimistic at some points, but it may change after some conversations.”
On June 15, a 35-year-old man protesting the extradition law died after he fell from a mall in Admiralty, reportedly leaving a note at the scene. Three more cases have occurred since then.
On June 29, a 21-year-old student fell from a Fanling public housing building; on June 30, a 29-year-old women fell from the IFC mall in Central, and a fourth person, a 28-year-old woman, fell from a building on Castle Peak Road in Cheung Sha Wan.
All left messages about the recent protests criticising the Hong Kong government.
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 Counselling and Psychology provides a WhatsApp hotline in English and Chinese: 6218 1084. See also: HKFP’s comprehensive guide to mental health services in Hong Kong
After the cases emerged, a group of social workers, teachers and parents urged the public last Sunday to offer more support to young people in order to prevent more copycat cases as other protests took place.
Danny Wong, an educational psychologist, expressed concern over the situation and said he feared there may be more cases of self-harm. He said people should only share text messages and not photos of the deceased, or photos of their last words.
He also urged people not to rationalise the act of suicide by calling the deceased “righteous” or “heroes.”
“People can share feelings with friends or find other appropriate ways to release their feelings,” Wong said. “If you find you are being emotional after reading about the incidents, please put down your phone and get some rest.”
‘Heartbroken and sorrowful’
Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung was the first minister to acknowledge the string of incidents at a press conference on Friday: “The HKSAR government feels heartbroken and sorrowful at these incidents of suicide,” he said.
“We must provide more assistance… and ask that anyone who is emotionally troubled to respect life, and to seek help and advice from friends, family and professionals if necessary.” However, when asked if the government ought to shoulder some responsibility for the deaths, Cheung did not respond.
Dozens of people carrying signs reading “JJ we need you” took part in a search mission on Wednesday after a person on Facebook threatened to end their life.
Lawmakers called off attending a protest that day to look for him. In the afternoon, Civic Party lawmaker Alvin Yeung said on Facebook that the person had been found and was in the company of friends.
The city has been rocked by a series of protests triggered by legal amendments, which would allow the city to handle case-by-case extradition requests from jurisdictions with no prior agreements – most notably, China. The bill was suspended on June 15, but not withdrawn. The movement has since evolved into a wider display of anger against the government, as well as calls for democracy and accountability over allegations of police misconduct relating to the use of crowd control weapons.