YOUNG people in Hong Kong are too confined by social norms and as a result put their own mental health at risk, a group of young people who attended an international health conference in Canada say. The five young people, aged between 21 and 24, took part in the 'Study Tour to Canada 1995' organised by the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups. They attended the Youth for Youth Health Conference in Vancouver with delegates from all over the world. The conference, organised by the Canadian Youth Foundation, featured workshops and meetings which provided participants with information on youth health issues. The young people were also encouraged to exercise their rights and voice their opinions. The Hong Kong participants were impressed by their Western counterparts' positive attitude towards life. They came to realise that youngsters in Hong Kong are forced to follow a rigid mode of education and are subjected to a lot of pressure. These factors have a negative effect on their psychological well-being. 'In Hong Kong, every youngster follows a rigid path - this same path takes them from primary school to secondary school and then university. Teenagers in Western countries have more choices and are more versatile; their approach to life is very different,' said Desiree Lam Pui-fung, a University of Hong Kong business student. The 21-year-old recalled her encounter with a 22-year-old girl from Toronto who had already spent six years at university and was not at all concerned about her future after graduation. 'She was planning to visit her relative in Australia after six years of college life. I have only been in university for 11/2 years and I can't wait to get out. 'They lead a much easier and relaxed life. I think we give ourselves too much pressure,' Desiree said. Alphonse Yan Wai-fung, a business student at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, had similar concerns over the mental health of local youngsters. The third year student said that young people should adopt a different attitude towards life. 'Hong Kong is a stressful society. We must do something to relieve the pressure. 'There are many alternatives in life; we do not have to follow the same path. Young people should try to relax and help their peers do the same,' Alphonse said. The student was inspired by the programmes which encouraged young people to be more aware of their rights and responsibilities. 'The major theme of the conference was youth empowerment. In the past, young people were not taken seriously. 'The conference put across the message that young people should abandon their passiveness and fight for their rights,' he said. The group said that a lot had to be done in the territory to increase awareness of health issues among young people. 'We always take health for granted, but death and disease can strike any time,' Alphonse said. The delegates also found that Hong Kong youths were conservative when discussing 'embarrassing' issues like sex. 'We managed to get some discussions going with the other delegates,' Desiree said. The group will make an effort to raise awareness of youth health issues in Hong Kong and hopes to report their progress to their counterparts at the second conference which is scheduled to be held in Mexico in four years' time.