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City Weekend

Five Hong Kong high achievers brought low by depression

After success, fame, money came emotional strife, but these women found a way back to happiness

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 June, 2017, 8:03am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 June, 2017, 8:03am

From professional athletes to celebrities, a successful career may guarantee a high income but not necessarily good mental health.

Fiona Yuen Sau-sing, supervisor of the Hong Kong Young Women’s Christian Association, said high-achieving women might be less willing or able to seek help when they get depressed.

Although some professional women would seek help at the association, she believed their long working hours limited their ways to de-stress, such as building up social networks.

Many Hong Kong women face greater stress as they are squeezed between poorest and better off

Another reason, Yuen said, was their high self-esteem.

“These women may act like they are very tough, which makes other people think it’s OK not to give them a helping hand. So, even if they need help when they get depressed, they would rather hold back than look for social support proactively.”

But in recent years some notable high-achieving women have openly discussed their depression.

City Weekend looks at how they managed to come to terms with their emotional problems.

Swimmer Yvette Kong Man-yi

The 24-year-old thought her sports career was over in 2013 when she found it hard to maintain her winning streak and eventually suffered from depression. She sought professional help, which helped her to identify the problem – being overly focused on the outcome instead of the process.

Actress and Canto-pop singer Sammi Cheng Sau-man

The 44-year-old suffered from depression after starring in the film Everlasting Regret, about a woman’s turbulent life in Shanghai during the 20th century. After it was released in 2005, Cheng took a two-year break from show business to deal with her emotional problems. During that time she sought professional help and became a Christian, as she said prayers calmed her down and made her feel more peaceful.

Actress Kara Wai Ying-hung

The 57-year-old action star won Best Actress at the 1st Hong Kong Film Awards in 1982. But as such features became less popular in the 1990s, Wai was forced to take up roles she found less challenging. She could not cope with the change in her career and started being anti-social. At one point she tried taking her own life. Apart from professional help, Wai learned many ways to deal with depression by reading lots of mental health books.

Canto-pop singer Fiona Sit Hoi-kei

Sit was diagnosed with depression in 2008. She believed the cause was being told by her family since she was young not to share bad experiences with outsiders, and she tended to keep silent about her personal life when she entered show business. Apart from seeking professional help, Sit opened up with friends and turned to Christianity.

Scholar Petula Ho Sik-ying

The 59-year-old professor at the University of Hong Kong’s Department of Social Work and Social Administration was diagnosed with uterine fibroid and underwent surgery to have her uterus removed. She later suffered from depression and documented her experience in her autobiography.