Economic problems have been blamed for a 60 per cent jump in the number of people seeking psychiatric help at government clinics. Figures released yesterday by the Hospital Authority reveal a 15 per cent jump in attendances during each quarter of the past year. The increase was due to economic problems, a better awareness of psychiatric services and more community outreach, said Dr Yip Ka-chee, Kowloon Hospital's chief of psychiatric services and co-ordinator of the Committee for Psychiatry. The rise is also in line with the experience of charitable counselling services, which have been flooded with calls and requests for help since the beginning of the year. More than 4,000 people used hospital out-patient services for the first time from April to June, he said. During the same period last year, 3,573 patients were seen for the first time. The numbers waiting for help also leapt from 2,165 to 3,432. 'There are a number of factors . . . population growth, increase awareness of psychiatric services and more willingness to accept help. 'There are also more referrals from general practitioners - people can no longer afford the expensive private counselling,' Dr Yip said. Some cases involved people with financial problems, he said, adding the 'holistic' approaches could involve family counselling and medication.