Good job addressing mental health issues, but it can be even better

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 August, 2015, 3:19pm
UPDATED : Friday, 14 August, 2015, 3:19pm

Over the past five years, the government has worked hard to expand its mental health services to meet public demand for early detection and treatment, rehabilitation, and community support, as well as long-term treatment and care for those who need it.

For example, in 2011-12, the Hospital Authority expanded its professional team of health-care practitioners in various disciplines for early identification, assessment and treatment services for children suffering from autism and hyperactivity. In 2013-14, more than 208,000 people with mental health problems were treated by the authority's psychiatric services, and public funding for mental health has increased.

The government now has a holistic approach in promoting mental health by way of a service delivery model covering prevention, early identification, timely intervention and treatment, and rehabilitation for those in need.

Following the international trend to focus more on community and ambulatory care in treating mental illness, the authority operates cluster-based psychiatric services in the city's 18 districts.

Besides 260,000 psychiatric outreach cases and 98,000 psychogeriatric outreach attendances in 2013-14, there were 17,000 patients with severe mental illness who in 2014-15 came under the authority's citywide case-management programme. The authority estimates that, among our 7.2 million population, there are one million to 1.7 million who have mental disorders; and within this group, 70,000 to 200,000 suffer from severe mental illness, which is no small number. The media regularly highlights stories of family tragedies involving the mentally ill. The public perception is that the mental health situation is worsening because of poor living and environmental conditions, the growing wealth gap and increasing social pressures.

The Hong Kong Civic Association urges the government to consider setting up a mental health commission. It could review the mental health situation of our young people, which has declined to a "distressing" level, according to a local specialist. There is a long-term need for such a commission to be involved in enlisting more grass-roots support to foster a caring and enlightened attitude towards mental health patients throughout the city.

This commission, supported by the government and with a broad-based community effort, could enhance the quality of life of our citizens.

Hilton Cheong-Leen, president; Frederick Lynn, chairman; Professor George Woo, chairman, health-care committee, Hong Kong Civic Association