Communication Essay - Is There a Relationship Between Communication Breakdown and Teenage Suicides in Hong Kong?

Communication Essay - Is There a Relationship Between Communication Breakdown and Teenage Suicides in Hong Kong?

A study reported in the S.C.M.P 22nd September 2001, entitled “Suicide Biggest Killer of Youth” showed a rise in the general suicide rate in Hong Kong. The study also found that the suicide rate among young people, particularly between the ages of 15 to 24, increased 39 per cent, from 9.6 to 13.3 per 100,00 people between 1981 and 1999. Although the rate was not particularly high compared with other countries, some experts believed that the increasing suicide rate is a sign that young people in Hong Kong are experiencing many problems, especially social, financial and psychological ones. Because young people are easily influenced by the media, they may think suicide is a way to solve these problems.

In addition, in traditional Chinese culture, talking about one’s problems openly is a sign of weakness and is discouraged. Talking about your problems only worsens the situation and puts more stress on family members, both financially and psychologically. This inability to communicate with the family affects young people negatively. In the increasingly stressful modern life of Hong Kong, teenagers may be facing more and more complex problems but feel unable to face them or to solve them. Dropping out from school, taking drugs or even suicide is the consequence.

According to experts, many of these problem-teenagers suffer from low self concept and low self esteem. They lack confidence in themselves and in their ability to solve problems that arise. According to Devito (2006), both self concept and self esteem develops through contact and interaction with others who we consider important to us. These significant others (Devito 2005:96), in particular our parents, have a major impact on who we are and how we evaluate of ourselves. Communication with our parents is therefore crucial to building a good self concept and high self esteem. A study by Ellis & Beattie (1990) in the USA, found that children who have positive, optimistic parents, often have a higher self esteem and are happier in school and with life in general, than children of parents who are very strict and pessimistic. These children are less likely to get into trouble at school and are more likely to take part in extra curricular activities. This study shows that communication with parents is an important part of a growing up and developing a positive self esteem.

What should be done to help the young people in Hong Kong cope with their problems? In my opinion, the government should put more emphasis on education and help young people develop a positive self concept. For example, schools should teach students that failure is a natural thing, and that only by failure can we become successful. Also, communication between family and teenagers should be encouraged. Secondary school students, as they may be more immature, may have more personal problems and have more difficulty in communicating about these with their parents. This is why this age group has a higher suicide rate. The government and schools should teach students communication skills, not just academic skills. Also, parents should be more understanding and willing to communicate with their children and not only focus on academic success. Improving communication among family members could be a very significant way of helping to reduce teenage problems, such as suicide, in Hong Kong.


Devito, J., (2006). Human Communication: The Basic Course. 10thEd. New York: Allyn & Bacon

Ellis, B.,A. and Beattie G., (1986). The Psychology of Language and Communication. New York:
Guilford Press.

Moi, P. (2001) “Suicide Biggest Killer of Youth”. S.C.M.P 22nd September 2001, A5