Improving HK’s mental well-being status in 2023 PA


Improving HK’s mental well-being status in 2023 PA

By Lau Kin-shing

The consultation sessions for the 2023 Policy Address arranged by the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region have spurred discussion among professionals on the best way to address the public’s concerns over the city’s mental well-being and the proposed solutions. Improving the psychological well-being of citizens is a daunting and challenging task, calling for the involvement and commitment of social and economic sectors, families and communities.

Extensive consultation is necessary and commendable; over 30 consultation sessions with Legislative Council members, representatives of various concerned groups, and the general public will be highly informative for policymakers. The dedication of Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu and his administrative team demonstrates the government’s commitment to addressing public concerns for the welfare of the citizens.

The recent roll-out of 10 measures to promote mental health support is a significant step forward . The measures recognize the importance of addressing the needs of individuals recovering from severe mental illness and promoting overall mental wellness. Some further refinements will help achieve the goal through a comprehensive and effective approach.

By increasing the ratio of case managers to severe mental health patients (1:40), the government is ensuring that individuals receive sufficient personalized attention and care tailored to their specific needs. A well-designed training plan will be needed to ensure that prospective case managers are fully equipped with essential skills, including effective communication, crisis intervention, and long-term support. By doing so, a satisfactory outcome and a more efficient mental health care system can be forged for the foreseeable future.

New medications with fewer side-effects are a promising step toward improving patient well-being. To bolster this initiative, it’s advisable to promote a shared decision-making model between healthcare providers and patients. Engaging patients in medication discussions and keeping them informed about potential side-effects will enhance treatment adherence and empower patients to manage their own health.

Waiting times for psychiatric specialist consultations need to be reduced to ensure early intervention and timely treatment. To further reinforce this goal, establishing a robust telehealth infrastructure could provide virtual access to mental health professionals, ensuring immediate support, especially in urgent cases.

The government has the potential to establish a comprehensive and integrated mental health care system that not only addresses current concerns but also cultivates a culture of resilience and well-being

Expanding the availability of psychiatric nursing services in community clinics contributes to continuity of care during waiting periods. Collaborating with local community centers, schools, and NGOs to develop psycho-education programs could help raise awareness about mental health, reduce stigma, and encourage early help-seeking behaviors.

Exploring the feasibility of “community treatment orders” is important, but it’s equally critical to ensure that the rights and autonomy of patients are upheld. A robust oversight mechanism involving patient advocates, legal experts, and mental health professionals can strike a balance between treatment and individual rights.

The commitment to offering specialized support for marginalized groups could include targeted outreach programs, culturally sensitive mental health education, and bilingual services for ethnic minorities. Collaborating with community leaders and local influencers can facilitate trust-building and destigmatization.

In addition, family issues in Hong Kong should not be overlooked. The fast-paced and highly competitive lifestyle is stressful for everyone, especially the working population who put in long hours and juggle multiple responsibilities to meet the ever-rising cost of living. This situation affects both the quality and quantity of time spent with family members. The lack of a healthy work-life balance leads to a “burnout mentality” that takes a toll on both mental and physical health and strains family relationships.

Mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and stress are more prevalent in Hong Kong than the general public realizes. On top of which, such issues have been stigmatized in society, discouraging those in need from seeking help from their families. As a result, as family members are kept in the dark, mental health problems could escalate to an unmanageable stage before any effective action is taken.

Addressing family issues in Hong Kong requires a multifaceted approach that takes into account the changing dynamics within families, the impact of societal pressures, and the challenges posed by economic conditions. By implementing strategies to enhance work-life balance, promote mental health awareness, provide affordable housing solutions, reform the education system, and address economic inequalities, Hong Kong can promote healthier family relationships and create a more supportive environment for families to thrive.

The government could propose that employers organize wellness programs and initiatives focused on physical and mental health. This could include offering counseling services, stress management workshops, and recreational activities, fostering a work environment that recognizes the importance of work-life balance.

Through the implementation of policies promoting mental health awareness and providing support within families, it is possible to reduce stigma and encourage open communication. Launching public awareness campaigns to destigmatize mental health issues and emphasize the importance of seeking help and support can encourage families to engage in open discussions about mental health. Introducing mental health education in schools and community centers can help young individuals and parents understand the significance of mental well-being, identify signs of distress, and learn coping strategies. Ensuring easy access to counseling and mental health services for individuals and families in need can provide necessary support during challenging times.

Investing in community-based family support programs and counseling services can empower families to cope with challenges and build resilience. Implementing parenting programs that offer guidance on effective parenting techniques and communication skills can enhance family dynamics and improve parent-child relationships. Establishing family counseling centers that provide professional counseling and mediation services can assist families in navigating conflicts and strengthening their bonds. Organizing support groups for families facing specific challenges, such as single parenting or caring for elderly family members, can create a platform for sharing experiences and seeking advice.

Through the recommendations put forth in the 2023 Policy Address, it is to be hoped that mental health services in Hong Kong can be enhanced. The government has the potential to establish a comprehensive and integrated mental health care system that not only addresses current concerns but also cultivates a culture of resilience and well-being.To further amplify the impact, the integration of robust monitoring, evaluation, and continuous improvement mechanisms should be considered to ensure the enduring effectiveness of these measures over the long term.

The author is vice-president of the Hong Kong Psychological, Counselling and Consultation Society, an international certified hypnotherapist instructor, and a senior Chinese psychological counselor and course instructor.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

【CDTT Newspaper Article】Lau Kin-shing:Improving HK’s mental well-being status in 2023 PA (China Daily HK Edition, 24 Aug 2023)’s-mental-well-being-status-in-2023-PA


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中國夢智庫| 對《2023年施政報告》改善市民精神健康狀況政策的期望