Largest ever Hong Kong mental health survey to involve at least 15,000 people, with focus on young
Aim is to understand extent of conditions such as depression among the young and ensure ‘early intervention’
With a growing number of young Hongkongers seeking treatment for mental health issues, the government will launch its largest ever survey next year to understand the causes and extent of these problems, so that it can formulate better early intervention policies.
The poll will have at least 15,000 respondents across three groups: students aged six to 17, young people and school dropouts aged 15 to 24, and the elderly aged 60 or above, with a sample size of 5,000 people in each age group. A full report would be ready by 2021, a government advisory committee announced on Thursday.
“Our priority is on children and youngsters ... Early intervention [for mental illness] would prevent such conditions from worsening and causing a greater burden on our health care system,” said Wong Yan-lung, chairman of the Advisory Committee on Mental Health and the city’s former justice secretary.
According to Wong, from 2011 to 2016, the number of children and young people seeking treatment for mental problems rose from 20,000 to around 30,000 – an “astonishing” increase.
Half of the children and young people treated for mental health issues also suffer from autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Wong said, adding that more resources were needed.
“More challenging are the youngsters studying in secondary schools with emotional problems such as depression and anxiety disorders. We would like to know the extent of the problem through the survey,” he said.
Depression among students has long been described as a serious issue in Hong Kong, with a recent survey finding that one primary school pupil in 10 suffers from related symptoms.
The new study next year, to be conducted by the committee, is aimed at determining the prevalence of mental illnesses among different age groups, as well as high-risk factors, recovery patterns and economic difficulties patients face.
Feedback from schoolteachers, parents and carers would also be included in the survey.
Wong said the current mental health support scheme for students – which centres on better cooperation between professionals from the education, medical and social work sectors – had been expanded.
Forty-one secondary and primary schools have been included in the scheme this year, from a previous count of 15.
Set up last November, the committee was tasked with advising the government on mental health policies. The move marked Wong’s first return to public office after stepping down as justice secretary in 2012.
Declining to comment on political matters or confirm if he was approached for the role by Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, Wong made clear his heart was in helping the needy.
“The figures are astonishingly high ... Helping 1 per cent [of patients] already means helping many people.
“We would like to pave a road to mental wellness ... at least with an implementable direction,” he said of his goals during his two-year term with the committee.