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Charcoal-burning suicide in post-transition Hong Kong

  • Kathy P. M. Chan (a1), Paul S. F. Yip (a2), Jade Au (a3) and Dominic T. S. Lee (a4)
Abstract
Background

Charcoal-burning, a new suicide method, emerged in Hong Kong during the latest economic recession. With-in 2 months charcoal-burning had become the third most common suicide method.

Aims

To examine the characteristics of suicides by charcoal-burning, and to delineate the pathways linking macro-level economic and social changes with the subjective experiences of those surviving a charcoal-burning suicide attempt.

Method

Both quantitative and qualitative methods were used. In the coroner's records study, the first 160 cases of suicide by charcoal-burning were compared with a control group. In the ethnographic enquiry, we interviewed 25 consecutive informants who had survived serious suicide attempt using charcoal-burning.

Results

People who completed suicide by the charcoal-burning method were more likely to have been economically active and physically healthy, and were less likely to have had pre-existing mental illness. Charcoal-burning suicide was associated with overindebtedness. Media reports were pivotal in linking overindebtedness and financial troubles with charcoal-burning.

Conclusions

The political economy of suicide by charcoal-burning illustrated how historical, socio-economic and cultural forces shaped the lived experience that preceded suicide.

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Copyright
Corresponding author
Dr Paul S. F. Yip, HKJC Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong. Fax: +852 2549 7161; e-mail: sfpyip@hku.hk
Footnotes
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Declaration of interest

None. Funding detailed in Acknowledgements.

Footnotes
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The British Journal of Psychiatry
  • ISSN: 0007-1250
  • EISSN: 1472-1465
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Charcoal-burning suicide in post-transition Hong Kong

  • Kathy P. M. Chan (a1), Paul S. F. Yip (a2), Jade Au (a3) and Dominic T. S. Lee (a4)
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