- It’s perfectly normal to feel anxious because of coronavirus or the political climate in Hong Kong
- Speaking to a therapist or psychologist can help you realise you’re not alone
Why is it so hard for people to talk about mental health? Clinical psychologist Sofia Ng says part of it is that children, especially in Hong Kong, grow up in an extremely competitive environment.
“Adults tend to see mental health issues as a sign of weakness, that those who suffer from mental health problems can’t handle the pressure,” she says.
Ng was born in Canada, but grew up in Hong Kong. She has been through battles with the demons inside her head. Having resolved her own mental health issues, she is now helping others do the same.
Many people feel uneasy seeking help because of society’s negative views about mental health problems, Ng says, and that shame and stigma are attached to mental health. She says there is a need to educate people that mental health should not be a taboo, and those who seek help are brave.
During the pandemic, families are forced to spend more time together than ever. Add differing political views, and arguments and tension can be common within a family, which ultimately affects their well-being. People have different emotions – they may be scared, angry or stressed, and this is natural. It’s also natural to want to reach out for help – and you can.
Ng says the unpredictability of the current sociopolitical climate has affected the city’s younger generation. Many feel depressed and anxious.
Talking to a mental health professional can help you make sense of any problems you might be going through.
“The one thing I want to tell them is that they are not alone. They need to remember that everyone is struggling through this time,” she says.
Ng believes that counselling offers more tools and skills to help young people cope with a stressful environment. She strongly recommends finding the courage to seek professional support, especially during this difficult time.
Change can only come from within us, as only we can control how we feel, Ng says. “It’s natural at this moment for people to feel depressed and hopeless. But as long as Hong Kong is surviving, we can redefine how we live on our own terms.”
She also says that the narrow definition of success in Asian culture adds to the pressure teens feel.
“Parents tend to think like this: ‘We are going to bring up a kid – they’re going to go to the best school, and when they graduate, they will get a job in finance, law or technology and be successful’.”
But, she adds, “How many people can actually fit that narrative? How many people do you know had top grades, had been accepted to a top school and got their dream job?”
Ng urges young people to rethink what truly makes them happy and branch out, instead of defining happiness with monetary success.
“Ask yourself,” she says, “does money make people truly happy?”
Once someone is financially secure, extra money seems redundant as it will not fulfil them emotionally.
With the implementation of the new national security law, many people feel that Hong Kong won’t be the same.
“We are actually transitioning into a new chapter where we can change our mindset – and redefine happiness,” Ng says.