Hong Kong workers want more mental health support at work, study finds

A huge majority of respondents said they needed more mental health support at work

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 September, 2014, 4:22am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 September, 2014, 8:20am

Some 90 per cent of respondents to the city's first ever academic survey of workplace mental health conditions said they needed better support at work.

And almost 60 per cent said mental health issues in the workplace were pushing away talented staff.

A total of 1,031 workers and managers responded to the study on knowledge, attitude and practices to do with mental health in the workplace, commissioned by the Joyful Mental Health Foundation and conducted by the University of Hong Kong. The findings were revealed yesterday.

"The government should create a programme to monitor what we call mental health literacy," said Samson Tse Shu-ki, co-author of the study and associate dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences. He was referring to awareness of mental health issues among the city's 3.7 million-strong workforce, and the factors that affect those issues.

Stigmatisation of people with mental health issues was prevalent in the workplace, Tse said.

Both Tse and co-author Paul Wong Wai-ching, an assistant professor in the same faculty, said the government should launch a programme to track workplace mental health.

The city should also implement an awareness campaign to help workers and managers improve their mental health, and to eradicate stigmatisation in the workplace, the researchers said.

Some 30 per cent of respondents said they felt concerned, depressed or a loss of interest when they were at work.

Professionals such as doctors, architects, teachers and lawyers were particularly vulnerable to mental strain.

"They have a great deal of responsibility and in some cases high-stress duties," Tse said.

He said managers and the workers themselves shared the responsibility for improving workplace mental health.

"The managers and supervisors can learn more about mental issues; they should know more about their individual workers … and try to tailor the support for those [with problems]," he said.

But he said workers should proactively take steps to maintain their sanity, such as taking breaks or doing exercise. "You have to look after yourself because the employers will squeeze you to death. They want to make profits," he said.

Tse said a number of factors influenced workers' mental health, including their level of responsibility, relations at work, stability of the working situation, the number of hours and the proliferation of electronic gadgets demanding attention.