PUBLISHED : Saturday, 27 June, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 27 June, 2009, 12:00am

Should compulsory treatment be ordered for mental patients?

As stress levels are rocketing because of the economic turmoil, the number of schizophrenics in Hong Kong is also rising drastically - by 23.1 per cent. Among 7 million Hongkongers, there were 154,625 mental patients in 2008-09, which is more than 2 per cent of the population.

The news of a mental patient's involvement in the death of a three-year-old boy has shocked the public.

Many critics challenged the government for not offering compulsory treatment. However, with limited resources, I have deep concerns for the effectiveness of such a policy.

I am shocked that Hong Kong, touted as Asia's world city, offers deficient mental medical treatment which only lasts a few minutes, let alone the rehabilitation services provided by the Social Welfare Department.

Nurses only visit extreme cases and it is usually only to remind them to attend the next appointment. Patients diagnosed as low-risk can easily 'escape' further treatment and continue to pose great danger to the public.

Neither the provision of drugs nor compulsory treatment will be enough to help this underprivileged group. What this group needs is community care. More voluntary carers are needed.

In Britain, National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence guidelines state that all people with schizophrenia who experience continuing psychotic symptoms should be offered psychological therapy. There are 250 assertive outreach teams engaging 'hard-to-reach' people.

Our city lacks not only manpower but the determination to offer a well-planned community-care service to solve the root of this issue. Mandatory treatment may seem like the solution, but it does not guarantee the safety of residents.

Cherry Chong Man-yan, North Point

Should more ice-cream-hawker licences be issued?

Ice-cream hawkers driving their motorcycles on the streets are one of the unique features of Hong Kong.

Most hawkers are elderly people who want to support themselves. Hong Kong has also suffered from the financial tsunami and unemployment is increasing.

In this situation, the government has a responsibility to provide more job opportunities to mitigate the impact of the economic downturn. Some 3,500 applicants competed for 61 licences. What criteria are used to assess the applicants? Is it age, background or skill? The government should adopt a strict set of rules to assess applicants if it is only going to issue a set number of licences.

When I was a child, I was so happy to see the ice-cream hawker. I think ice-cream hawkers are part of the collective memory of Hong Kong people, and tourists also appreciate them.

The government, therefore, should issue more ice-cream-hawker licences to preserve this cultural heritage.

Wong Hiu-lam, Tuen Mun

On other matters ...

I started learning pottery 22 years ago at the Pottery Workshop when I was an actress for the Chung Ying Theatre.

Both the workshop and the Fringe Club provided an opportunity to meet artists dedicated to their work. Although I migrated, the workshop is a vital place for me to practise, exhibit and teach pottery. Today, I am the head of the ceramic area at the City University of New York.

The workshop's most remarkable contribution has been its outreach service to the community of Hong Kong and developing an international ceramic-arts centre.

I often promote both places as the most interesting art venue in Central. Hong Kong needs a venue like the Pottery Workshop. It sets an example that arts organisations can support themselves.

The renovation of the building should benefit all art and should not be an excuse to eliminate any art form. I support the petition.

Cassandra Sin-ying Ho, assistant professor, Department of Art, Studio Art/Art History, Queens College, City University of New York