Hong Kong needs a greater awareness of depression
The suicide of singer Ellen Joyce Loo underlines why further investment is needed to tackle mental illness and why we should be more understanding
What sets suicide by celebrities apart is not so much that the stars appear to have everything to live for, or the means to pay for specialist help if troubled, for example, by depression, but the publicity it generates. The death at 32 of singer Ellen Joyce Loo is no exception. The constraints of respect for privacy are loosened in the such cases to permit discussion of the underlying causes, possible warning signs of the tragedy and what may have been done to avoid it.
There are opposing views as to whether this is good or bad. One view discourages the media from reporting details of suicides because of the concerns of mental health experts regarding “contagion”, or copycat self-harm. The other encourages more open discussion – and greater understanding – of depression and similar forms of mental illness that can affect anyone in any family at any time. Hopefully, subject to respect for grief and privacy, the suicide of Loo will result in the latter. The recent suicides within a week of fashion icon Kate Spade and celebrity chef and author Anthony Bourdain after battles with depression are cases in point when it comes to a greater understanding of the condition.
Loo was found dead after falling from her home in Happy Valley. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2013 and came out in a lesbian relationship last year, something she confessed to having found difficult. There is no question such circumstances would have tested the emotional resilience of anyone.
Depression is little appreciated or understood. Typical symptoms are feeling physical and psychological weakness and emotionally drained. If someone has these symptoms, there may be help available in the form of treatment, which is not easily accessible to those not socio-economically privileged and who face limited appointments with psychiatrists in the public hospital system.
Owing to the demand, there is need for further investment in adequate resources for the treatment of mental illness and a greater awareness of the condition in society.
If you or someone you know are having suicidal thoughts, help is available. For Hong Kong, dial +852 2896 0000 for The Samaritans or +852 2382 0000 for Suicide Prevention Services. In the US, call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on +1 800 273 8255. For a list of other nations’ helplines, see this page