First mental health survey for Hong Kong

First mental health survey for Hong Kong

By Catherine Walker

The first mental health survey for Hong Kong is currently being carried out. Preliminary findings show that the region’s mental health services are inadequate although the survey is expected to take three years to complete.

Only 1% of Hong Kong residents are currently receiving mental health treatment but the need is thought to be far higher according to report on BBC Health.

Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule when it transferred from being a British colony in 1997.  It now finds itself caught between the traditions of Chinese culture and the western influence of British rule. Some of Hong Kong’s most vulnerable citizens are being left out in the cold as they find themselves experiencing dramatic social, economic and political changes.

The Chief Editor of the Hong Kong Journal of Psychiatry, Linda Lam believes that the provision of mental health services in the city is way below the need.

‘We don’t have figures for the prevalence of most psychological disorders in Hong Kong but like most developed cities there are estimates that anxiety and depressive disorders would be over 10%.’ She said.

‘If we project this to Hong Kong then our mental health needs would be tremendous.’ she added.    Mental health professionals in Hong Kong widely assume that mental illness is vastly under diagnosed.

Traditional Chinese beliefs hold the idea of reincarnation and that misfortune in this life is the result of misdeeds in the past.

‘In Hong Kong when you mention anything about mental illness people immediately think that this person is dangerous violent and is going to kill someone’ explained Professor Daniel Wong, a practicing therapist and social scientist at the City University of Hong Kong.

‘The general public is quite scared of people with mental illness and does not want to mix with them’ he added.

Mental illness is still stigmatised world-wide but the problem in Hong Kong is particularly acute and this was demonstrated by the words of Roy Chen. 

Roy is a 45 year-old mature student now but eight years ago he was working on the reservations desk of an airline when his colleagues discovered he had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

‘They started to have strange feelings about me, they didn’t want to take the elevator with me, instead they just took the stairs.  They didn’t want to have lunch with me’ Roy said.

More recently the overall attitude towards mental health seems to be changing.  In the last six years demand for mental health services has doubled. 

Unfortunately the demand totally outweighs the supply.  Often people will wait for up to two or even three years for their first consultation and then only receive two to three minutes of the consultants time.

‘In Hong Kong the spending is 0.25% of the GDP, I think it is only one quarter of what is spent in the US or Australia’ said Mr Chi Kong Ching, chief officer for the Mental Health Association of Hong Kong.

Hong Kong faces the added problem of a rapidly aging population.  A quarter of the population will be over 65 within the next twenty years and aging brings its own mental health conditions.

‘The government really needs to have a mental health policy that cuts across different bureaus with a long term plan for mental health services’ says Linda Lam. 

Further help on depression

We hope you have found this information useful, please also see:

Your rating: None Average: 10 (2 votes)