With the new school year starting on Monday, the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups has urged schools and society in general to be vigilant about the challenges faced by students, especially in the wake of the anti-government protests that have gripped the city since June.
The federation yesterday announced that its Wellness Mind Centre had received 459 inquiries from June 12 to August 24 on its hotline and online platform, with youngsters upset by the city’s spiralling political crisis seeking help.
Ten per cent of the cases were in the high-risk emotional distress category, with some showing self-harming tendencies. These students usually had a history of mental illness and were emotionally attached to the protest movement, the federation explained. They react strongly when there are violent clashes, or when protesters are badly injured.
The federation said many teenagers feel they have no future, and the ongoing political turmoil has affected them emotionally.
Hsu Siu-man, coordinator of the federation, believes students may have a hard time pulling themselves away from the streets and the internet back to school. She called on teachers and school counsellors to pay extra attention in the first month of the new term.
“It is important that schools provide a safe and calm environment for students,” she said. “[Teachers] should adjust the learning pace and focus on students’ physical and mental well-being,” said Hsu.
Schools should set up “healing corners” for students to soothe their troubled minds while providing books about how to manage their emotions and hotlines for counselling services, she added.
The federation will hold a series of workshops in schools on managing emotions, bullying and media literacy.
They have also expanded their psychiatry subsidy scheme to people aged 10 to 29 with signs of mental illness so they can receive treatment as soon as possible.
Regarding potential school strikes and concerns about bullying, Li Kin-man, principal of Salesians of Don Bosco Ng Shiu Mui Secondary School, emphasised they have zero tolerance towards bullying, but believe criticising and penalising students is not the best approach. He suggests that schools provide platforms for students to voice their opinions, and set up a dialogue with those who hold different views.
“I don’t want the school to become a place for political bickering. Rather than magnifying their differences, students should focus on what they have in common,” said Li.