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Hong Kong health care and hospitals

‘Alarming’ number of recovering psychosis patients’ in Hong Kong struggle to get past fear of being judged over condition

University of Hong Kong research looked at 136 patients aged between 15 and 25 and analysed their medical history

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 December, 2017, 8:04am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 December, 2017, 2:55pm

Close to 40 per cent of patients recovering from psychosis suffer from moderate to high levels of self-stigma – a fear that others judge them for having the ­condition – a study by the ­University of Hong Kong’s faculty of medicine has found.

The research looked at 136 such patients, between 15 and 25 years old. The participants ­answered nine questions, and ­researchers analysed the results against their medical history.

Professor Eric Chen Yu-hai, head of the school’s department of psychiatry, said it was “alarming” that 36.8 per cent of the ­recovering psychosis patients had a moderate to high level of self-stigma. “Self-stigma will attack the self-esteem and self-efficacy in [such] patients, affect their social life and work severely, and worsen depression,” he said.

“[Self-stigma] makes it very difficult for some patients to accept treatment as many [of them]do not feel positive about their treatment.

“Every time they take their medicine, it reminds them that they are taking [it] for this illness.”

Chen said self-stigma could be worsened by a longer duration of untreated psychosis, past admissions and being a female.

Hongkongers discriminate against people with psychosis despite better understanding: study

Sushi Siu Sze-man, a patient in recovery who recently published a book chronicling her journey with the illness, said having an understanding boss in her old job and supportive friends helped her overcome her self-stigma.

The now 33-year-old said she had to drop out of an associate ­degree programme because of her condition, and had faced discrimination when seeking jobs and had severed ties with friends.

But the turning point came when she worked at an elderly care centre a few years ago.

“My former boss did not label me [as a psychosis patient] and she even managed to bring out my strengths in the jobs assigned to me, which helped me regain my confidence,” Siu said.

She said that she was fortunate to have her former boss treat her like a normal employee. Knowing that, she did not feel the need to look down on herself.

On how to improve the situation, Siu said that there needed to be more resources to help psychosis patients, as currently there were an inadequate number of psychiatrists and social workers.

Meanwhile, Chen urged corporations to give these patients more space and for society to reduce public stigma.

He also said there should be more public education on the illness for earlier diagnosis.