Hong Kong health care and hospitals

How psychological help in prison spurred a Hong Kong money launderer to turn her life around

Man Kei was at rock bottom after being locked up at the Lo Wu Correctional Institution, but a gender-specific scheme to provide women in custody with professional psychological treatment has given her a new lease on life

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 April, 2018, 11:35am
UPDATED : Monday, 09 April, 2018, 2:53pm

Growing up with a compulsive gambler for a father, Man Kei (a pseudonym) and her family often struggled to make ends meet, with her sometimes even having to default on tuition fees.

“Because of this, I have considered money important since I was very young,” she says in a video released by Hong Kong’s Correctional Services Department on Sunday.

The department produced the clip to introduce a programme called the “Psy Gym” – a gender-specific scheme to provide women in custody with systematic and professional psychological assessment and treatment.

A spokesman said the programme helped Man Kei when her life hit rock bottom after she was sentenced to a prison term for money laundering.

When Man Kei was first admitted to the Lo Wu Correctional Institution, she was filled with negative thoughts and depressed. She could not eat or sleep well and declined to talk or mix with others.

Hong Kong children get help from a centre that uses positive psychology

But things started looking up for her when the institution arranged for her to take part in the “Psy Gym”.

Clinical psychologist Vivian Mak Wai-ming noted Man Kei suffered from emotional disorders including depression and anxiety, and was under tremendous stress when first admitted.

So Mak helped Man Kei change by leading her away from “thinking traps” using positive psychology, such as training her to look for positive elements in negative events.

For example, Man Kei was encouraged to use a diary to record what she was thankful for daily.

Gradually she managed to write down many things she was grateful for, such as the care and assistance of correctional services staff, Mak noted.

Now 58, Man Kei has regained confidence and recovered from her depression.

She has been released from prison and her statutory supervision period has been completed.

Her husband and daughter have both noticed Man Kei smiling more, being more positive and no longer so stubborn.

Man Kei said her priority now was to be a good mother and wife to make up for lost time.

“Family is very important to me, much more vital than anything else,” she said.