Hong Kong must follow example set by countries in the West. Photo: SCMP Pictures

We should stop neglecting mental health issues in Hong Kong

According to the World Health Report published by the World Health Organisation in 2001, about 450 million people globally suffer from mental illnesses.

One person in every four to five in Hong Kong has been affected by a mood or mental disorder at some stage of his/her life. As the prevalence of depression is increasing, the WHO has warned that it will be the second greatest cause of global mortality.

Since the severe acute respiratory syndrome epidemic in 2003 and the two economic downturns in the past two decades, many people in different social classes of Hong Kong who have been affected by emotional or mood-related problems. Together with the frequently seen political and societal problems, negative emotions and stress are increasing in most of Hong Kong's social sectors.

In recent years, many developed countries have decided that mental health promotion should be given a high priority. They have increased financial support, invested in greater resources and developed national frameworks for the promotion of mental well-being.

More studies have also been conducted in the developed West over the past few years, with more services available to help prevent mental disorders.

Recommendations have been made following research, which have led to the development of culturally specific mental-health programmes. They are designed to meet local health needs and to provide evidence of clinical effectiveness from a research perspective.

In Hong Kong, mental health is not a high priority of public and private organisations. Unfortunately, only limited mental health promotion programmes have been recommended, developed or implemented. Recent research shows that a high percentage of Hong Kong people lack knowledge about the meaning and importance of mental health; and many of them are unaware of effective strategies for mental health promotion.

Although there is now growing awareness of mental health care here, far more effort and resources should be made by the government and health-care organisations to assert that mental health is an indivisible part of human health.

The government must place much more emphasis on mental health promotion and make a greater financial commitment to help improve the mental health of people in Hong Kong. More effective strategies will encourage people to talk more openly about mental health issues, and help integrate policies and programmes related to mental health promotion in response to public health needs.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: HK should stop neglecting itsmental health issues