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Carrie Lam

Another Hong Kong policy address, another failure to open up on mental health and face real issues

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 14 October, 2018, 12:03pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 14 October, 2018, 12:03pm

The Hong Kong chief executive’s policy address fell on World Mental Health Day. That could have been an opportunity to talk openly about the problems faced by people struggling with their mental well-being, to show compassion and open the way for people to talk about mental health. Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor could have encouraged an improved understanding of mental illnesses that will affect one in four of us over our lifetimes. The policy address could also have provided a stage to outline practical policy measures to help alleviate the endemic under-provision in our mental health services.

Instead of facing up to the challenge, Ms Lam’s sole initiative on mental health was a small-scale measure to reduce stigma, dressed up as policy. By choosing to stall for time, she has dodged the real issues that affect people’s lives, and the responsibility of government to provide a framework to care for people’s mental well-being.

Breaking point: Hong Kong’s overburdened mental health care system in need of a fix

There are not enough psychiatrists for Hong Kong’s population size, waiting times are too long, there is inadequate support for schools to help young people and the liaison process between departments and agencies to deliver services is disjointed.

Ms Lam has accepted the status quo and pushed the hard task of taking real action – developing practical policy solutions that will make a difference to those in need – down the road for another year or more. Mental health is clearly not a priority for the chief executive. What does this say to the people of Hong Kong?

Ann Pearce, The Weez Project