CCDIV officers use eyes and ears to prevent suicides

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The joint effort by the police and community has slashed the number of suicides on Cheung Chau Island to only three cases in 2005 from 14 cases in 1999, following the implementation of a Suicide Prevention Programme in March 2002.

There had been a number of suicide cases in Cheung Chau by the beginning of 1998. With a view to halting this trend, the local community took the initiative to pool the resources of police, holiday bungalows, social workers and Cheung Chau Rural Committee to provide timely assistance to those who try to take their own lives.

Through the programme, the police reinforced liaison with the participating parties and reminded them to keep an eye on holidaymakers and alert police of anything out of the ordinary.

Police and social workers also jointly organised a series of talks on suicide symptoms for the parties, especially those in frequent contact with holiday-makers. At the same time, police stepped up patrol and put up a notice on a hotline for police assistance in all holiday bungalows.

During an interview with OffBeat, three officers from Cheung Chau Division (CCDIV), Sergeant Adolf Leung and Police Constables Chan Wing-yiu and Cheng Siu-chung are unanimous in the view that the programme has been very effective in preventing suicides.

Having worked in CCDIV for four years, and being familiar with the conditions on the island, SGT Leung has developed his own way of preventing suicides, "using my eyes, ears, mouth, nose and brain".

He elaborated: "During daily patrols, I use my eyes to watch out for suicide symptoms such as emotional instability; my ears to listen to conversations to find out if anyone is going to commit suicide, and then talking to him or her to find out their backgrounds and intentions. Furthermore, your nose has to be sensitive enough to tell the difference between burning charcoal and that used in a barbecue. The final step is to use your brain to analyse all the data and come to a conclusion."

As 40,000-resident Cheung Chau has about 10,000 visitors on weekends, suicide prevention would rely on the close liaison between the police and community, as well as on neighbourliness.

PC Chan, who is on his second tour in CCDIV, said: "Apart from making observations, we also heavily rely on information provided by residents and holiday bungalow operators. They would inform us who had come to Cheung Chau and who was behaving abnormally. This information is vital to preventing suicides."

Though having served in CCDIV for just more than one year, PC Cheng said the neighbourliness on the island and the mutual trust built up between officers and residents had gone a long way towards preventing suicides.

Meanwhile, holiday bungalow operator Ms Chu Sau-king said the Suicide Prevention Programme had made her and other operators more alert to potential suicide cases. "We'll turn away anyone who might commit suicide, and inform the police immediately," she added.

The officers are pleased to see a substantial drop in suicides on Cheung Chau Island

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