"The View From Hong Kong SAR Under China"


The Application of Logotherapy on Prevention of Suicide in the Youth of Hong Kong

Cindy Leung

Hong Kong is located in eastern Asia, on the southeast coast of the People’s Republic of China, facing the South China Sea. With a humble beginning as a small fishing village in 1800s, Hong Kong became a colony of the British Empire after the opium wars in 1841. In a few decades, Hong Kong was transformed from a rocky undeveloped mountainous terrain to a major entry point for global trade and seized the opportunity to become one of the world’s international leading financial centers today. In 1997, the sovereignty of Hong Kong was transferred back to the Chinese government and became one of the special administrative regions of the People’s Republic of China. According to the principle of “one country, two systems”, Hong Kong has a different political system from the Chinese mainland and enjoy independent judiciary functions.

Under great influence of the British culture during the colonial era, we could precisely describe Hong Kong as having a “East meets West” culture in which food always holds an important place in our culture. The fusion of east and west makes Hong Kong so unique that it has a reputable label of "Gourmet Paradise" and "World's Fair of Food". The choice of international food is abundant. Wherever you go in Hong Kong, you can easily locate a restaurant that prepares Chinese, Japanese, Western and South-Eastern Asian cuisine.

With the rising concern of suicidal problem among the youth, as a new beginner of logotherapy, I have a vision of applying logotherapy in prevention of suicide among the youth in Hong Kong. In 2006, more than 22% of the suicidal victims aged 25 or below claimed that the cause of their problems were related to family or school. Based on a survey for reasons of suicidal ideation among the adolescents, more than 50% of the respondents indicated that family problem was a major factor that contributed to their feeling of hopelessness. To name a few of these family problems, they include pressure from authoritarian parenting, low parental warmth, improper child-rearing practices and depressing family climate. Hong Kong is a highly competitive society. Most parents and students believe that the best way to earn an identity or recognition in the society is to graduate from a prestigious school with excellent school achievement and work in a big company with promising career development. Therefore, our educational competition starts as early as kindergarten. Nowadays, there is a growing trend of having our young children study in two different kindergartens for Chinese and English language training as well as attending training on music and sports after school in order to enrich their profile for application to study in one of the prestigious primary schools. For students who can not excel in their academic performance, they need to endure a lot of pressure from their family and peer group. Eventually, they become depressed and lose hope in life which resulted in committing suicide.

According to the suicidal prevention program initiated by Dr. Viktor Frankl in the Theresienstadt concentration camp, we need to save our children and adolescents from committing suicide by helping them to find their meaning of life before they develop a sense of hopelessness in their problem situations. In the camp, Dr. Frankl’s suicide intervention teams were responsible for taking care of the new arrivals by easing their shock against the hostile living environment as well as keeping them up with hope for the future. The core belief of logotherapy is to help individuals to discover for themselves their reason for being. In Man’s Search for Meaning, Dr. Frankl quoted Nietzche saying, "He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how" and wrote “The meaning of life always changes, but it never ceases”.

After I read an article named “The Application of Logotherapy in Education” from Bianca Hirsch , I am excited to note that logotherapy, as a therapeutic tool, is useful in helping children and adults change behavior and attitudes and thus gain control in their lives. With its action-oriented approach, it allows the participants to assume responsibility for their own behavior. In this article, she has identified few working tools that could be used to strengthen our students in confronting their problem situations. (i) The logochart helps students to focus on specific activities, provides freedom to prioritize and choose, and identifies behaviors that can be incorporated (or eliminated) in order to enhance the individual’s growth and development. (2) Socratic dialogue may be used to help the students to identify their feelings, problems and concerns as well as bringing them into an awareness that they are not helpless victims; (3) For adolescents, the life purpose questionnaire can be used to measure the degree of life-meaning.

As I build up my knowledge and understanding of logotherapy after attending the training offered by the Logotherapy Institute, I shall exhaust all available opportunities in Hong Kong to promote the application of logotherapy in helping the children to find their meaning of life and teach the parents to help their children to do so. Then, the greater China will be my next target for the promotion of using logotherapy in suicidal prevention.

Cindy Leung
"The View From Hong Kong SAR Under China"

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