Children Health

Mental health issues are affecting younger children, data shows

The Social Welfare Bureau (known by its Portuguese initials IAS) has dropped the age limit for its services to 10 from 12, according to multiple local media reports

The move comes in the wake of official data that shows that callers to the IAS and Caritas mental health support hotlines have been getting younger.

The IAS says it has also stepped up outreach efforts, as many mental health sufferers are unable or unwilling to attend treatment facilities supported by the bureau. Welfare officers are now able to handle 580 outreach cases at a time. 

Although helpline calls have dropped by around 10 percent year-on-year, totalling 11,800 in 2023, the mental health of young people remains a worrying issue in Macao.

[See more: Better mental health screenings could lower Macao’s suicide rate, says lawmaker]

Public broadcaster TDM cited official data showing that Macao’s attempted suicide rate has risen noticeably over the past few years, jumping from 186 cases in 2021 to 257 in 2023. Many of those cases involved youths and children, with 77 people aged 15 to 24 trying to take their lives last year, along with 33 children aged just 5 to 14.

Last year saw the highest recorded number of suicides, with the figure standing at 88, including a 14-year-old child.

The city’s current suicide rate is 12.9 per 100,000 people, compared to the global average of 9 per 100,000 people. 

Mental health issues and chronic illness are among the main reasons for suicide in Macao, according to the Health Bureau, although financial and gambling problems can also be potential causes. 

If you or someone you know is having thoughts about suicide, call the Caritas Hope for Life Hotline. The English and Portuguese language service can be reached on 2852 5777 and operates from 2:00 pm to 11:00 pm Sunday to Tuesday and from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm Thursday to Saturday. It is closed on Wednesdays and Public Holidays. The Chinese language service operates 24/7 on 2852 5222. In an emergency, call 999, 110 or 112.

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