Mental centres a political hot potato

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 November, 2011, 12:00am


Almost 90 per cent of candidates for the district council elections have shied away from stating their views about having a mental health centre in their district.

Only 98 candidates, mainly from the pan-democratic camp, responded to a survey on the topic, which was conducted amid efforts by the government to defeat opposition from residents and councils to having such centres in their neighbourhoods.

The Alliance for Advocating Mental Health Policy, which conducted the survey, urged voters to consider a candidate's stance on the issue when deciding who to support. Among the respondents were all 41 Civic Party candidates, all six candidates from the Neighbourhood and Workers Service Centre, and 19 of the 132 Democratic Party candidates.

Almost all the respondents agreed community support was important to mental patients and that there should be a mental health centre in each of the 18 districts.

'Some candidates might find the topic too sensitive and tried not to make their views known,' alliance spokesman Tim Pang Hung-cheong said, citing a myth that all mental patients were dangerous and could attack others. Opposition by district councils has long delayed a government plan, initiated in 2009, to set up district-based integrated community centres for mental health across the territory. So far, only nine centres have been set up.

Late last year, a Tuen Mun district councillor of the Democratic Alliance for Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) led the opposition to a plan to have one such centre set up in Wu King Estate.

Pang said he was disappointed by the poor response to the survey, which was conducted between October 20 and November 2. Questionnaires were sent to 915 candidates for the district council elections.

The DAB told the alliance that its candidates would not respond. None of the 24 Liberal Party candidates took part in the survey.