Health and wellness

Death of Ellen Loo highlights need to open up about mental illness and seek help

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 August, 2018, 5:34pm
UPDATED : Monday, 20 August, 2018, 5:33pm

The recent death of Ellen Joyce Loo, a young local singer and songwriter, attracted much media attention and became the focus of discussion, shining the spotlight on mental illness.

Non-sufferers may find it hard to empathise with the symptoms of bipolar and related disorders, the state of feeling extremely high, then extremely low, and then high again. It’s torture. Loo was diagnosed in 2013, sought treatment and emerged to speak for other sufferers. We have lost a dear young lady, brave and uncompromising until the end.

People are ready to talk about mental issues only when something tragic like this occurs, but not for long. Once the news cycle moves on, the topic is forgotten and everyone starts to talk about something else.

Complicating the matter is the traditional Chinese belief that mental illness is something to be ashamed of, which makes the subject a taboo in society. This idea is so deep-rooted that few question its validity. If Hongkongers were more open and tolerant, sufferers would have the chance to share their struggles more freely with their friends and family. The recovery process could then be much smoother.

Watch: Sudden death of pop star shocks Hong Kong

Nearly a thousand mourners show up for funeral service of Ellen Joyce Loo

It is estimated that one in six people in Hong Kong is battling mental health issues, and one in three young Hongkongers suffers from stress, anxiety or depression. When more are ready to stand up and testify to the human aspects of the illness, people would start to accept the reality that it is just a sickness like any other. It can be treated if handled properly.

The question is, is “face” more important than life?

Jacqueline Kwan, Mid-Levels

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