Letter: Addressing Mental Health in Hong Kong
About 1.7 million people are suffering from different kinds of mental problems in the city.
Ching Chi-kong, the assistant director of the Mental Health Association of Hong Kong, responds to our feature on the plight of the mentally ill:
"I would like to suggest what the government and we could do to make the city a better place for people with mental illness.
1. What the government could do
It is estimated that about 1.7 million people are suffering from different kinds of mental problems in Hong Kong. It is crucial for the government and related organizations to identify people in need and do prevention work. The government should be committed to securing on-going funding for NGOs to organize public awareness campaigns and study programs about mental health issues. According to the government, the Hospital Authority handles about 210,000 mental illness cases currently. However, the need for a mental health medical service in the community is larger than we can imagine. Furthermore, many people refuse to seek help due to misunderstandings about mental illnesses.
We suggest the government should have a concrete plan to enhance general medical doctors’ knowledge of mental illness and let them be the “gatekeeper” for early identification of mentally ill people. The Hong Kong school curriculum does not include sufficient mental health knowledge. The government should enhance mental health education in primary and secondary schools by including related content in the curriculum. It is also very important to enhance teachers’ understanding and knowledge of mental health.
2. How the media can help
It is sad that whenever there is a violent accident, the media’s focus falls on whether the person involved has mental illness. The media should take a leading role to reduce the formation of stigmatization of mental illness.
“Acceptance of people with mental illnesses is crucially important.”
3. What can you and I do?
All of us can be involved in providing a better place for mental health patients. Acceptance of people with mental illnesses is crucially important. Mental health should no longer be a taboo subject and we should learn to not look at patients with prejudice. City life, busy work and complicated relationships can cause a lot of stress.
We should stay aware of our emotional needs and mental health status. We can learn more ways to release negative emotions, develop positive thinking and try to establish a balanced life style.
Finally, I would like to point out that if you find yourself or people around you are having emotional distress or mental problems, you should seek help as soon as possible. I believe that by joining together to fight for change, we can make Hong Kong a better place for people with mental health problems."