,HONG KONG — When Mr Tony Bruno set off at 5.30am on Feb 26 at West Island School to walk around Hong Kong Island to help raise awareness for suicide prevention, he had more than a dozen supporters alongside with him.rrHe also had the memory of his son Jamie to help him as well.rr"He was with me the whole way," said Mr Bruno, who completed the anticlockwise 62km trek in just under 13 hours.rr"I was doing it partly in his memory, partly with his spirit and partly to make the most of what is essentially a senseless death. And that is tough, but a lot of the way I was supported, and that eased things, my friends, colleagues were there with me too."rrMr Bruno, 59, completed the walk as part of the KELY Support Group, a local non-government organisation which focuses on youth services and specifically the mental health realm.rrHe said the walk is also part of a week-long event called Weez Week, which aims to help break down the stigma around suicide.rrFour years ago Jamie tragically took his own life at the age of 15. Mr Bruno's walk started and finished at the Pok Fu Lam school his son attended.rrIn 2019, Hong Kong's suicide rate was around 13 per 100,000 people, higher than the 12.3 figure reported in 2018. Hong Kong's suicide rate among older adults is nearly twice the population average.rrFor an international comparison, Hong Kong's age-standardised rate was estimated at 9.7 in 2019, which is slightly lower than the global rate of 10.5.rrSuicides accounted for 30 per cent of all unnatural deaths among Hong Kong children and teenagers over the course of two years, according to a government report released in 2019.rrThe report reviewed found school work problems were the biggest reason for young people killing themselves.rrrrr rrr rr rrrr rrrrrView this post on Instagramrrr rrrr rr rr rrrr rr rrrr rr rr rrrrr rr rrrA post shared by The Weez Project (@weezproject)rrrrrMr Bruno, who has raised more than HK$150,000 (S$26,068) so far, said his goal is to get people talking, plain and simple.rr"Mental health is still somewhat taboo (in Hong Kong) and suicide most definitely is. I've had people I know go through similar tragedies and aren't able to talk about it to any great extent.rr"So there is an ongoing desire to increasingly create awareness around the subject. The more we can talk about it, the more we can resolve our problems and help ease people's pain more and help these tragedies from occurring again."rrThe World Health Organization estimates close to 800,000 people commit suicide every year, and that suicide is the third leading cause of death for kids ages 15 to 19 years old.rrMr Bruno said his walk, which started before sunrise and finished in the dark, had a little bit of everything including some stairs, some beautiful harbour views and of course a requisite period towards the end where his mind had to carry his body.rr"My back was aching, my feet were aching, my whole body was aching," he said about the last few kilometres. "Actually the only part of me that wasn't aching was my bad knee, which I thought was going to be the problem, but it was the rest of my body," he said with a laugh.rrMultiple studies have shown that regular exercise, or playing a sport of any kind, be it an individual one or team-based competition, can greatly improve one's mental health.rrThose who are physically active report less instances of depression and anxiety, and a higher rate of happiness and sense of belonging and purpose.rrFor Mr Bruno, who hopes his work, and goal of "zero suicides in Hong Kong" can help others avoid the difficult path he has had to navigate along with his wife, said talking has definitely helped him through the process.rrHe said part of it is also physical, in activities like getting out for a walk, even if it's not all the way around Hong Kong Island.rr"One of the big things now is exercise and just getting outside and getting some fresh air," he said.rr"Especially right now with Covid and people are cooped up, and I know I have overcome my own mental health crisis through going out and getting out into the hills and hiking and running in Hong Kong." SOUTH CHINA MORNING POSTr
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