Families given support
Distress in a family member often affects the well-being of the entire family, making mental illness highly contagious. Mrs Cheung's sister suffered from mental illness 11 years ago, but at that time she had no knowledge of the condition and life was miserable for the family.
'My sister would yell at me or hit me,' she says. 'She even called the police to have me arrested for no reason. It was insane, I felt like it was not only her, but also me that was mentally ill. I didn't know what to do. We were very close, but her illness changed everything.'
This year Operation Santa Claus (OSC) will provide funding for Richmond Fellowship of Hong Kong's Project I-Proud, which provides training to families of the mentally ill. The project encourages families and patients not to shy away from their problems.
OSC is one of Hong Kong's most popular charity drives, embraced by a community that has not only given its money, but has also put its time, effort and heart into making Christmas truly special for thousands of beneficiaries. Jointly organised by the South China Morning Post and RTHK, it has supported more than 100 different charities over the past 23 years. Through heartfelt support from generous donors like you, OSC has improved the lives of needy people in Hong Kong and on the mainland.
Moroco Li Yi-man is service development officer at Richmond. 'Most of the funds will be spent on employing two social workers for two years,' she says. 'There will be training on how to take care of mentally ill patients, and activities for families to bond. Peer support is the best way to heal. When families meet, they gain a sense of belonging because all face the same problem.'
Mrs Cheung fully supports the idea of allowing families to help each other. 'I had a really bad experience because I did not know about mental illness,' she says. 'I hope others will not follow in my footsteps, and so I became a volunteer for Richmond. I wait outside hospital wards to approach families of the mentally ill to let them know that there is support.'
Many people think that after patients are discharged from hospital, they are fully healed. But there is still a long way to go and family support is the key to full recovery.
OSC will be launched on November 14
How you can give
Donate online by credit card at osc.scmp.com or by filling in the donation form. Donations can be made at ATMs or at any HSBC branch: account number 502-676299-001. You can also donate by cheque, payable to 'SCMP CHARITIES LTD - OPERATION SANTA CLAUS' and mail to: Operation Santa Claus, Morning Post Centre, 22 Dai Fat Street, Tai Po Industrial Estate, New Territories, Hong Kong.
Donations of HK$100 or more are tax-deductible. If you would like a tax receipt, please send the completed donation form and original bank receipt, with your name, address and phone number, to the address above. Contact us at email@example.com or 2680 8159 or visit us online at osc.scmp.com.