Mental health a poor relation in Hong Kong

Mental health a poor relation in Hong Kong

October 10 was designated World Mental Health Day by the World Health Organisation. The day raises public awareness of mental health issues and encourages investment in the prevention and cure of mental disorders.

However, in Hong Kong, we only seem to be concerned with mental health when someone is mentally ill or shows signs of depression or similar problems.

Although statistics show that we are living longer, improvements in our physical health are not matched by progress in our mental well-being. Living in such a fast-paced city, we are subjected to a lot of stress, but the lack of publicity about World Mental Health Day showed that the effects of these pressures are not taken seriously.

Although an increasing number of Hongkongers, including teenagers, suffer from mental illnesses, there is a lack of affordable professional services to help them. The government doesn't seem to be very interested.

World Mental Health Day is also intended to remind us of the importance of prevention, as well as treatment. The modern approach is to see an individual's problems in the context of the larger "systems" they live in, such as their family, their workplace and society as a whole.

For instance, workers often face great pressure in the workplace - long hours, irrational requests from customers or maybe fear of being sacked.

The Employee Assistance Programme helps companies support their workers emotionally and to restructure to provide a better working environment. Training to improve communication skills and resilience to stress is also provided. This can equip working parents to help their children with mental health issues.

Mental health should be a mandatory topic at school. Instead of relying on social workers to handle students with mental issues, schools should launch a programme to teach students how to cope with stress.

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