People who have recovered from mental illness still live under the shadow of stigma, according to one Hong Kong woman with first-hand experience of the condition. “The pressure is invisible. You don’t know how others look at you,” said Esther Lee Hau-mui, a 49-year-old who has recovered from depression. She began suffering in 2000 after she was forced to leave her job due to a wrist wound. Her illness turned worse and she was admitted to hospital in 2009 after a suicide attempt. A month-long hospital stay was followed by consultation every 12 weeks in a specialist outpatient clinic in a public hospital – but she said she was “not able to build up trust” with the doctor as the consultations were limited to three minutes a session. On the proposed public-private partnership scheme, Lee said it might make it easier for patients to establish a good relationship with a doctor. “If I could keep on seeing the same doctor in the private sector, it is easier for us to build up trust ... [In my treatment in a public hospital], I can only see the same doctor two to three times,” Lee said. The pressure is invisible. You don’t know how others look at you Former patient Esther Lee Once she was considered a recovered patient, Lee chose to work as a peer support worker in a hospital to share her stories with other patients with mental illness. “I feel comfortable with this work ... People know clearly I once suffered from mental illness and I can say whatever I want,” she said. Previous experience has left her concerned after she interacted with others who did not know much about depression. A man who tried to develop a relationship with her stopped contacting her after she shared her medical history with him. She said there was still a stigma attached to mental illness in the community, especially as the me- dia reported attacks and assaults. “Why would the media often link the alleged attacker with mental illness whenever violence happened?” said Lee. “The public then equates mental illness with something very bad.” The experiences of people who are or have been suffering from the illness led Lee to her current position in the hospital. “I find this job really meaningful ... I hope the public does not discriminate against people [with mental illness] any more and takes greater care of their own mental health,” said Lee.