Young people make up 90 per cent of patients at a 'mood' clinic established to treat mental illnesses Students are the main users of the University of Hong Kong's mood clinic, established to treat depression and mental illnesses in the general community. Tang Siu-wa, the head of the university's psychiatry department, said they had yet to explain the reason for the phenomenon. He said 90 per cent of the 60 patients being treated at the clinic were in their 20s. Some were suicidal. 'Many of them are top students in public exams. Some have performed really well in universities,' Professor Tang said. 'But they have suddenly lost their ability to concentrate on their studies or to memorise things.' Professor Tang said there were no obvious reasons behind the emergence of symptoms of depression, but added that some people were more genetically susceptible to emotional disorders. Clinic staff had noticed a general trend in rising levels of depression among students. 'There is no conclusion behind the rising number of cases,' he said. 'However, I could say that there are generally more 'stimulants' which elicit emotional responses. There are increasingly economic, job, family and political stresses in our daily lives.' He said everyone should undergo an annual check-up on their emotional state. 'Most trained family doctors could conduct the check-up as part of the yearly physical check-up,' Professor Tang said. People should pay attention to the emergence of symptoms such as feeling sad, losing interest in hobbies, changes in appetite or weight, oversleeping, difficulties in concentrating and recurrent thoughts of death or suicide. Patients often delayed treatment for depression because they attributed symptoms to one-off events in their lives, he said. One patient at the clinic was told by his parents that he could be suffering from homesickness or facing too much competition when his academic grades slumped. The 20-year-old man - a straight-A student in secondary school as well as in his first year of university - could not concentrate on his studies and repeatedly overslept during his second year of university in the United States. 'After the patient returned to Hong Kong, he was still suffering from the same symptoms,' Professor Tang said. But Lee Sing, head of the Hong Kong Mood Disorders Centre at Chinese University, said the high number of students seeking help at the HKU clinic may not be representative. Other patients may be seeking help from general practitioners or private psychiatrists. Dr Lee estimated about one in five people in Hong Kong suffered from mood disorders, and most of his centre's patients were workers rather than students.