People read messages left by pro-democracy protesters at Hong Kong's international airport on August 11, 2019. Photo: AFP

The number of Hong Kong people suffering from mental health problems has increased due to the stress and trauma over the political turmoil and the on-going protests in the city.

According to the latest survey by the Chinese University of Hong Kong to assess the mental health status of Hong Kong people, the average score for the mental health index hit its lowest in eight years at 46.41 marks. Last year, the score was 50.20.

The passing score is 52.

The university interviewed 1,009 people aged 15 or above between June 21 and July 4 this year, assessing how work, study, children, family, living environment and social disputes affect people’s mental health.

An acceptable mental health level was between 52 and 68, and over 72 showed a good status.

The latest survey results showed that 56.4% of respondents scored lower than the passing score and only 12.6% of respondents showed a good mental health status.

Dr Ivan Mak Wing-chit explained that social conflicts had had a significant impact and the impact this year was more obvious than last year.

As the survey was conducted in the early stages of the now-withdrawn extradition bill protests and ended in early July, Mak worried that the mental health status of Hong Kong people would be worse.

In fact, about 41.1% of respondents said their mental health was negatively affected by the social dispute, a big jump of 18% recorded last year.

And those of a younger age responded that they were highly affected by social conflict factors. For instance, 55.5% of the age group between 15 and 24 said they were negatively affected by social disputes.

Meanwhile, 25.5% of respondents said family life negatively impacted their mental health while only 18% said the same last year.

Mak said under social unrest circumstances, a family was always functioning as protection. However, in this year’s survey result, they found a family turned to be one of the factors that affected people’s mental health, due to different political stances among family members.

In one case, a daughter who classisfied herself as “yellow-ribbon,” a pro-democracy supporter, was going to get married. Her father, a pro-government “blue-ribbon,” told his daughter that he and his friends would not attend her wedding because they were all “blue ribbons.”

In another case, Bella – not her real name – said she could not stand her father’s harsh comments about protesters when they had conversations at home.

Bella later left home because her father blamed a friend of hers for not treasuring life – Bella’s friend committed suicide due to the protests. Bella said she was sad because of the lack of empathy by her father. She also felt pressure because parents did not understand her feelings and did not want to listen to her.

Bella’s father said he is waiting for Bella to go back home, but he did not know how to get her back.

Mak urged the government to quickly respond to the mental health crisis by carrying out policies to support people.

He also suggested people assess their own mental health status. They could reduce time spent on social media and related news. If people found they do not feel cheerful or calm after more than two weeks, they should talk to their family or friends, or to seek help from social workers. For those who feel depressed, they should seek clinical support.

Leave a comment