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Confronting mental health issues in Hong Kong: 6 key takeaways

Confronting mental health issues in Hong Kong: 6 key takeaways


From life to work, children to adults, a recent conference shed light on various pressing issues that will help with counselling and mental health practice. Event report by Tracy Chan.

Mental health issues manifest in many different ways – low energy, loss of interest, a sense of isolation and loneliness, detachment, burnout, anxiety and depression, or worse, at the cost of one's own life.

“'What's the bravest thing you have ever said?' asked the boy. 'Help,' said the horse," a story cited by one speaker at the recent National Counselling & Psychotherapy Conference (NCPC) in Hong Kong. Asking for help isn't giving up, it's refusing to give up. This may best round up the solution to tackle mental health issues.

Supported by our sponsors, Hong Kong Hypnotherapy Association, and the Psychotherapy Society of Hong Kong (PSHK), the event organised by Human Resources Online saw over 200 attendees gathering at the Hong Thai Expo and Business Centre on 28 September 2023, discussing and learning a host of compelling and relevant topics surrounding mental health and counselling practice from leading counselling, psychotherapy and mental health experts, as well as industry practitioners and like-minded professionals.

Derived from the conference, here are some takeaways.

We feel burnt out because we care

One speaker pointed out that the more you care, the more likely you feel burnt out.

There are three components of burnout:

  • feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
  • increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job; and
  • reduced professional efficacy (productivity).

The risk factors for burnout include:

  • Work overload
  • Lack of reward
  • Lack of community
  • Lack of fairness
  • Values gap
  • Lack of control

To tackle burnout, we need to set healthy boundaries, and these healthy boundaries need to be strong. If not, they will get broken easily. We also need flexibility and to connect to support, whether it's for administrative support or any other thing.

If you detect the symptoms early enough, you can save a life

The speaker of a separate session highlighted that suicide is the single biggest cause of child death. And the reasons behind it? Despair, pressure, and the long waiting time to get help. Another big concern is the way the media portrays suicide.

Describing youth suicide as a terrible “cancer”, the speaker said the way to deal with it is through education – to educate parents, teachers, and young people on how to recognise symptoms and provide help.

“We try to help young people become what we might call an ambassador. They are trained to look for symptoms in their peers, to be able to talk to them and to say, if you want help, this is a way you can get help,” she said.

Beware of the impact of social media on children

Quality social interaction, including face-to-face peer interactions, can significantly affect cognitive development. However, as we use smartphones for almost everything now, screen/social media addiction is hindering quality social interaction, magnifying social comparison, as well as causing enduring effects on one's behavioural, emotional, health, interpersonal and occupational development, especially for children.

According to a statistic, a 10% increase in negative experiences on social media sees a 13% rise in loneliness. Therefore, we should change our mindset and understand that using the Internet is a privilege, not a right. Education, open conversation, having control, and clear expectations are the ways to help implement healthy screen habits that can protect children and last a lifetime. 

Finding inner harmony

“Without being balanced, centred and neutral, we can never make the right choices for us. Otherwise, we are constantly in a state of reaction, rather than responding to whatever life is throwing at us,” said one of the speakers of the day. 

As cited, 80% of workplace illness is stress-related. To tackle the sources of stress, prayer, repetitive movement, meditation, walking, and even taking a short power nap of less than 30 minutes can go a long way.

Couple relationships all come down to communication

The senses of insecurity, detachment, and helplessness can shape or break the relationship of a couple.

There is a common misconception that compromise means sacrifice. In fact, it is all about getting two people to work together, come out of their comfort zone, and meet halfway.

Both of them have to put down a little bit of what they want 100%, explore each other’s flexible and inflexible areas, and eventually understand their own and their partner's emotional needs.

People want to work for a company that prioritises mental health

  • Sending an employee who is struggling with their mental health to an employee assistance programme, and then forgetting to check back in with them ever again.
  • Sending an employee who is struggling with mental health on sick leave, and then expecting them to reintegrate into the workforce without any acknowledgment that they have gone away on sick leave or any type of conversation about what needs to happen next and what accommodations need to happen.
  • Scheduling a one-off awareness session once a year in October around World Mental Health Day.

All of the above are, in fact, not prioritising employee mental health or effective at dealing with employee wellbeing within an organisation.

The speakers at the panel discussion highlighted some of the keys to promoting mental health at the workplace:

  • Mental health has to be embedded into everyday workplace decisions and everyday workplace culture.
  • The tone from the top is important. They demonstrate a commitment at the leadership level. What the leadership values are going to be what employees' sentiment is going to be like.
  • Day-to-day check-in is building trust as a foundation to build a space and then translate for the employee to be open up for the dialogue.
  • To provide education so people can understand how to get help.

Photos / Human Resources Online

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