More than 36 per cent of Hong Kong's schoolchildren have contemplated suicide and 7.5 per cent have attempted it, according to a mental health survey.
Eleven per cent of the 3,000 respondents in the Wanchai district, aged between 10 and 18, said they had made detailed plans, research by the City University showed.
Dr Alfred Chan, researcher and associate professor at the university's department of applied social studies, said that action was urgently needed to reduce the academic pressure which drives so many to consider suicide.
"Research is revealing that the pressure on young kids is difficult for them to cope with. The worst thing is that teachers never appreciate their hard work. They are very dismissive of their achievements," he said.
The report, drawn up for the Wanchai provisional district board, recommends that the education department relax the pressure on children and review teacher training.
Dr Chan said: "We found a polarisation between teachers. They either teach just for the job or they are what we call confused teachers. They want to teach well, but don't know how. They are very neurotic and experience intense anxiety problems."
The exhaustion experienced by many students could drive them to thoughts of suicide. Almost every day a young person either attempted or successfully committed suicide. Those who said they had attempted suicide had taken impulsive action such as slashing their wrists or trying to jump from buildings.
The survey also revealed that Hong Kong students are becoming more badly behaved. "About 30 per cent of students are adopting marginal behaviour, such as skiving, getting annoyed and fighting with their classmates," said Dr Chan. "If we don't do anything now this number will increase."
However, drug addiction and violent crimes were comparatively low.
The survey showed that 7 per cent of students had stolen things or shoplifted, 4 per cent had taken drugs and 3 per cent had committed robberies.
"Many teenagers do not know how to handle problems. They vent their anger and anxiety in inappropriate ways and end up with many behavioural problems. This could be avoided if they were taught ways to cope with pressure," said Dr Chan.