Mental health in Hong Kong amid ongoing protest is at an all-time low but there is help

Two surveys reveal concerning results but a local charity has launched a campaign aimed at removing the stigma of discussing emotions

Karly Cox |

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There have been far fewer images like this of Hong Kong in the news recently.

More than 60 per cent of Hong Kong people have “poor mental well-being” according to a recent report. Local mental health charity Mind HK surveyed 1,048 adults aged 18 and up using the World Health Organisation's Well-being Index, and found that 61 per cent of respondents fell into the “poor” mental health category, up from 48 per cent last year.

The campaign is a response to the continued declining trend of mental well-being in Hong Kong. “It has been a very difficult time for Hong Kong over the last few months, however Hong Kong’s mental health problem has been recognised by the professional community as an issue for several years,” said Cheng Po-wan, the charity's Chief Operating Officer.

A second study released yesterday by Chinese University revealed Hongkongers’ mental health has deteriorated to its worst level in eight years, with ongoing anti-government protests adding to the stress experienced by residents. A total of 1,009 residents aged 15 years old or above on how 10 indicators – which included work, study, family and social disputes – affected respondents’ mental health.

SCMP reports the researchers set a mental health index between 0 and 100, with 52 as the passing score. An acceptable mental health level was between 52 and 68, and over 72 showed a good status. The average score this year was 46.41, the lowest ever since the annual survey on Hongkongers’ mental health was launched in 2012. The score was 50.20 last year.

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Mind HK today launched a campaign to inspire Hongkongers to confront the stigma of discussing mental health, and pledge to change their related behaviour. The #HowOkayAreYou campaign encourages people to talk more openly and honestly about their feelings and emotions, with a dedicated website offering a digital guide on “How to Ask” and a new language for having important conversations – in the form of WhatsApp Stickers created by local Hong Kong illustrators.

Cheng said: “The first step to reducing stigma around mental health is to increase the conversation around it. The #HowOkayAreYou campaign aims to inspire people in Hong Kong to engage with each other about their mental well-being and reduce the stigma around the topic of mental health. Informed by local culture and behaviour, the campaign provides tools that help people approach what many in Hong Kong feel is a difficult conversation.

“By understanding the channels that Hongkongers most commonly use to communicate, and their preferred language for difficult conversations, the campaign is relatable and easy to incorporate into everyday living.”