Young people are Hong Kong's future, so when research into their mental well-being shows a sharp drop, we should be worried. An annual study using an index in which 100 points represents full mental health and 50 a pass mark reveals a decline over the past year among those aged 15 to 24 from 63 to 53. The rate of decline was twice that of the general population, understandably prompting concern among the psychiatrists behind the annual telephone survey. There are no definitive answers, but the nature of the result requires that further investigation be undertaken as a matter of urgency. Any number of factors could be at play. Political aspirations and uncertainty come immediately to mind, but that implies the majority of young adults are politically active; this is unlikely to be the case. The new curriculum of the Diploma of Secondary Education, introduced two years ago, should perhaps also be discounted. Another source of stress, unemployment, could be ruled out given the low jobless rate. Mental health was worse over the past 12 months among the 1,500 people aged between 15 and 60 who were surveyed. The mean overall figure fell from 59.72 to 55.93 and one-third scored below 50, up from a quarter. Anyone can face stress, a precursor to depression and other mental illnesses, necessitating strong support networks. But the young have particular needs and we have to ensure that they are provided. They have to get regular exercise and eat properly. Being part of a family that is happy and whose members get along most of the time is important. Time has to be set aside for social activities. Having a sense of belonging, feeling loved, trusted and understood are essential for mental well-being. The majority of young people are mentally healthy, but there can never be enough education and awareness. A loss of interest in surroundings, prolonged sadness and persistent tiredness are tell-tale signs that all is not well. Alertness of family, friends, teachers and colleagues are at such times crucial to providing support and help.