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What Hongkongers think about mental health issues

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Almost a quarter of Hongkongers (1.7 million) have mental health issues. A survey published in October gauged their perceptions and attitudes of mental illness and its host.

Since Hongkongers spend their prime hours at the workplace, it is incumbent for HR professionals to explain to employees potential mental health issues that may affect them.

Here are six major findings of the research:
About 65% of the respondents were willing to stay friends with someone who develops a mental health issue. However, under 30% of respondents would be willing to live with them.

Almost two thirds of respondents felt that it was easy to identify people with a mental illness from perceived “normal” people.

People with mental illness are too often defined and distinguished by their condition. Major warning signs of mental illness can be internal such as sleep or appetite changes, problems with concentration and heightened sensitivity to sights, sounds, smells or touch, which cannot be perceived in plain sight.

Mind HK expressed that labelling people with mental health issues as abnormal and perceiving them not being able to participate in the so-called normal activities will aggravate the situation.

More than 40% of respondents believed that one of the main causes of mental illness was the absence of self-discipline and willpower. Little do they know, mental illnesses have been linked to abnormal functioning of nerve cell circuits or pathways, genetics heredity and infections.

“It is clear that there is lots to be done to help improve knowledge and attitudes around mental health and mental health problems, and the stigma that surrounds the subject in Hong Kong,” said Dr Hannah Reidy, CEO of Mind HK.

Almost 90% of respondents felt that mental illness is like any other illness. Similar levels believed that virtually anyone could become mentally ill (87%).

The good news is that a large majority of respondents believe that attitudes towards mental illness need to change and 89% agree there is a need to adopt a far more tolerant attitude towards people with mental illness.

“Mental illness is something we should and need to be talking about more. Just among our own members in Hong Kong, we have seen about a 30% increase in annualised claims for psychological and psychiatric services since 2015,” says Kevin Jones, chief executive of Aetna Insurance (Hong Kong).

When asked about support systems, nearly three quarters of respondents stated their workplaces do not provide any programmes of support for mental health needs of staff.

Meanwhile, 60% of respondents stated they did not know of any other sources of support for mental health apart from hospitals.

“We believe that everyone is equally deserving of affordable and accessible treatment for mental health issues – as well as support from their employers, colleagues, families and friends,” added Jones.

Three internationally validated questionnaires were given to 1,210 randomly selected adults across all regions of Hong Kong on their attitudes and knowledge of mental health in the city.



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