Simulation in Hong Kong hospital will let people experience how disruptive mental illness can be
The Mental Health Experience Museum is to open next year at Castle Peak Hospital
You walk into what looks like an ordinary living room, turn on the television and see yourself winning an award at a film ceremony. Moments later, a voice tells you not to leave the room as you would be beaten up by those jealous of you.
This is one of the likely scenarios in a simulation exercise for a museum like no other.
The Mental Health Experience Museum, which aims to educate the public about psychosis, is to open in the middle of next year at Castle Peak Hospital, the oldest mental hospital in the city. It will have a simulation room that lets people experience how disruptive mental illness can be.
“We have gathered some symptoms from the patients and developed them into different themes of simulations,” said Jolene Miu Hang-chun, general manager of nursing at the hospital in Tuen Mun.
After going through all the weird scenarios in the room, patients who suffered from schizophrenia shared how their own hallucinations had affected them and how treatment had helped.
“These are some tentative arrangements for the museum,” Miu said. “We want to help people understand how psychosis affects the brain, reinforcing the message that it is an illness and it can be treated.”
There will also be exhibitions and talks to educate the public to recognise the condition positively.
Dr Bonnie Siu Wei-man, cochairwoman of the executive committee at the hospital’s Institute of Mental Health, said the first museum to be established for education and advocacy of psychosis aimed to offer a new perspective for the public to understand the mental illness.
Siu stressed there was a need for such a move as the city was seeing a rise in cases of mental illness. In general, one in six adults experience mental issues according to international data, which may or may not lead to illness, Siu said.
“Society still lacks awareness on mental health. For example, what are the symptoms? What is mental illness? How do you seek help?” Siu said.
“There is also a misunderstanding that sufferers would be violent or tend to hurt other people. This stigma would make them feel the need to conceal their illness and refuse treatment.
“There are studies suggesting that allowing a member of the public to meet a psychiatric patient face to face is an effective way of removing such stigma.”
Castle Peak Hospital, formed in 1961, has knocked down a few rooms to put up an exhibition about its history, treatment development, and old medical devices.
The exhibition area will be turned into a museum that provides a new simulation experience after the hospital received HK$30 million donation from HSBC 150th Anniversary Charity Programme.
The museum would also be recruiting more volunteers, including recovered patients to share their experiences in the new setting, which will be open to the public and provide guided tour for school visits.
Last year, a report by a Food and Health Bureau committee tasked to review the city’s mental health policy warned of an increasing demand for psychiatric services in the city – especially for children – as well as a rising need to treat cases of dementia as the population ages.
The overall number of mental health patients has increased by 2 to 4 per cent every year, from about 187,000 in 2011-12 to more than 226,000 in 2015-16. The increase among children was particularly significant and could be as high as 5 per cent annually.
According to the Hospital Authority, about 70,000 to 200,000 people are believed to suffer from severe mental illness. Of those, 40,000 have been diagnosed with schizophrenia.
But currently there are only about 330 psychiatrists employed in Hong Kong’s public hospitals – 400 fewer than the number recommended by the World Health Organisation, based on the city’s population.