A survey to gauge people's awareness of psychosis has revealed that most Hongkongers have little sympathy for sufferers of the mental condition. When asked if they considered such patients to be 'dangerous' or 'unpredictable', more than 70 per cent said yes, and a similar percentage said they would show less respect for their opinions. Some 63 per cent said they would not date someone suffering the mental illness, and nearly three-quarters admitted they would look down on such people in daily life. The University of Hong Kong's public opinion programme interviewed 1,016 adults and found that many people had misconceptions about the mental illness and held discriminating attitudes. It is estimated that one in 100 people suffer symptoms of psychosis, which include hallucinations, delusions, and disorganised thoughts and speech. However, 71 per cent believed psychosis referred to split or multiple personalities, and six in 10 classified yelling and self-muttering as symptoms of psychosis, when such behaviour is very rare. Other misguided but prevailing views about symptoms were that sufferers performed strange actions, displayed anxiety and had a lower IQ. The study showed that nearly nine in 10 respondents believed employers tended to disregard job applications from those with psychosis. Eric Chen Yu-hai, a specialist in mental health at the university's Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, said the figures showed alarming misconceptions about psychosis in Hong Kong, which would pose great difficulties in preventing and treating the illness. 'In fact, the patients can have a normal life with proper and timely treatment. Yet such misunderstandings and discrimination in society may make them tend to avoid or delay seeking help,' he said. The survey also indicated that 30 per cent of people had never come across any information about psychosis. Among those who had, newspapers and television were their main sources of information. Professor Chen said: 'We find that the more negative news they learn from the press, the more stigmatisation they show towards the patients.' He called for the press to enhance public knowledge in the area. He said psychosis resulted from an imbalance of certain chemicals in the brain. Those afflicted were often gentle and sometimes distressed by the symptoms. Heredity, drug abuse and stress are some of the reasons for the illness. Professor Chen said an acute attack of psychosis could be eased within weeks with proper treatment but patients usually needed to take long-term medication to control their situation. The Hospital Authority has set up a hotline for psychosis patients under the age of 25 at 2928 3283.