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Lawmaker urges govt to enhance mental health screening

2024-02-22 02:52     BY Yuki Lei    Comment:2

88 suicides last year, up by 1/3 from pre-pandemic 2019

Macau recorded 88 deaths by suicide in the first post-pandemic year of 2023, up 10 percent from 80 in 2022, with the youngest victim aged only 14, and directly-elected lawmaker Wong Kit Cheng said this week that some of the suicide cases may have been caused by psychological illnesses.

According to official statistics, Macau recorded 80 suicides in 2022 and 66 in pre-pandemic 2019, showing a one-third increase in suicides last year compared with 2019. Macau confirmed its first COVID-19 case in January 2020.

Wong, a clinical nurse specialist holding a master’s degree in Applied Psychology from South China Normal University, urged the government to strengthen the analysis of sub-health and psychological prevention, and conduct risk assessment screening for mental and psychological disorders through psychological and social service institutions for early detection and early intervention.

Speaking to the media on the sidelines of a Spring Festival luncheon hosted by the Legislative Assembly (AL) on Tuesday for local journalists and correspondents working for media enterprises in the mainland, Hong Kong and Portugal, at MGM MACAU, Wong pointed out that once potential risk cases have been identified, early intervention should be carried out through psychological and social institutions for mental and psychological illness risk assessment.

According to a statement by the Health Bureau (SSM) late last month, in the fourth quarter of last year there were 26 suicides, comprising 20 males and six females aged between 20 and 85, of whom 21 were local residents, accounting for 80.8 percent, while five were non-local residents, accounting for 19.2 percent. The causes of the suicides “might” have been related to mental illness and chronic or physical diseases, as well as gambling or financial problems, the SSM statement added.

Statements by the bureau released each quarter last year noted that among the 88 suicides recorded last year, the youngest victim was aged 14, while the oldest was 86. In 14 cases, the victims were non-local residents.

“Youth suicide is often due to academic pressure,” Wong said, adding that for potentially at-risk students, school psychological counselling services and social worker intervention should be strengthened to build a positive life pattern for students.

She pointed out that psychological disorders cannot be completely cured instantly, and treatment is of a long-term nature, adding that apart from the provision of medical support, it was also important to take precautionary measures against the underlying condition and its relapse.

Wong underlined that the government’s “four-level joint prevention closely linked to the tetracyclic” mechanism should be done well in order to become a systematic prevention and treatment approach.

According to a statement by the Health Bureau last year, the Health Bureau, the Social Welfare Bureau (IAS) and the Education and Youth Development Bureau (DSEDJ) as well as social service institutions have – through an  interdepartmental collaboration mechanism – jointly implemented their “four-level joint prevention closely linked to the tetracyclic” mechanism promoted by the World Health Organisation (WHO), in the provision of mental health-related services, with a view to continuously improving the accessibility of services and expanding the social support network, while also mobilising the community at different levels such as family, school and community to pay more attention to mental health problems and take the initiative to assess the relevant information.

According to the IAS website, in line with the mechanism Macau’s mental health services are integrated into the community. Depending on each patient’s condition, he or she will be assessed by community service organisations, community mental health institutions and health centres before finally, if required, being referred to the psychiatric department of the public Conde de São Januário Hospital Centre for consultation and treatment. 


Directly-elected lawmaker Wong Kit Cheng speaks to the media on the sidelines of Tuesday’s Spring Festival luncheon hosted by the local legislature at MGM MACAU. – Photo courtesy of TDM


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