“Ac­cep­tance of peo­ple with men­tal ill­nesses is cru­cially im­por­tant.”

HK Magazine - - HOME - Ching Chi-kong As­sis­tant Direc­tor, the Men­tal Health As­so­ci­a­tion of Hong Kong

An email re­sponse to our on­line fea­ture about the plight of the men­tally ill in Hong Kong (“Hong Kong’s Men­tally Ill Suf­fo­cated by Stigma and Red Tape,” March 1):

I would like to sug­gest what the gov­ern­ment and we could do to make the city a bet­ter place for peo­ple with men­tal illness.

1. What the gov­ern­ment could do

It is es­ti­mated that about 1.7 mil­lion peo­ple are suf­fer­ing from dif­fer­ent kinds of men­tal prob­lems in Hong Kong. It is cru­cial for the gov­ern­ment and re­lated or­ga­ni­za­tions to iden­tify peo­ple in need and do preven­tion work. The gov­ern­ment should be com­mit­ted to se­cur­ing on-go­ing fund­ing for NGOs to or­ga­nize pub­lic aware­ness cam­paigns and study pro­grams about men­tal health is­sues.

Ac­cord­ing to the gov­ern­ment, the Hospi­tal Author­ity han­dles about 210,000 men­tal illness cases cur­rently. How­ever, the need for a men­tal health med­i­cal ser­vice in the com­mu­nity is larger than we can imag­ine. Fur­ther­more, many peo­ple refuse to seek help due to mis­un­der­stand­ings about men­tal ill­nesses. We sug­gest the gov­ern­ment should have a con­crete plan to en­hance gen­eral med­i­cal doc­tors’ knowl­edge of men­tal illness and let them be the “gate­keeper” for early iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of men­tally ill peo­ple.

The Hong Kong school cur­ricu­lum does not in­clude suf­fi­cient men­tal health knowl­edge. The gov­ern­ment should en­hance men­tal health ed­u­ca­tion in pri­mary and sec­ondary schools by in­clud­ing re­lated con­tent in the cur­ricu­lum. It is also very im­por­tant to en­hance teach­ers’ un­der­stand­ing and knowl­edge of men­tal health.

2. How the me­dia can help

It is sad that when­ever there is a vi­o­lent ac­ci­dent, the me­dia’s focus falls on whether the per­son in­volved has men­tal illness. The me­dia should take a lead­ing role to re­duce the for­ma­tion of stigma­ti­za­tion of men­tal illness.

3. What can you and I do?

All of us can be in­volved in pro­vid­ing a bet­ter place for men­tal health pa­tients. Ac­cep­tance of peo­ple with men­tal ill­nesses is cru­cially im­por­tant. Let’s make men­tal health prob­lem no more a taboo sub­ject and learn to not look at pa­tients with prej­u­dice.

City life, busy work and com­pli­cated re­la­tion­ships can cause a lot of stress. We should stay aware of our emo­tional needs and men­tal health sta­tus. We can learn more ways to re­lease neg­a­tive emo­tions, de­velop pos­i­tive think­ing and try to es­tab­lish a bal­anced life style.

Fi­nally, I would like to point out that if you find your­self or peo­ple around you are hav­ing emo­tional dis­tress or men­tal prob­lems, you should seek help as soon as pos­si­ble.

I be­lieve that by join­ing to­gether to fight for change, we can make Hong Kong a bet­ter place for peo­ple with men­tal health prob­lems.

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