pandemic normally takes ‘deep toll’ on Hongkongers’ mental health, former justice minister claims

Adella Miesner

© SCMP Former Hong Kong justice minister Wong Yan-lung. Image: Xiaomei Chen Covid-19 has taken a hefty toll on Hongkongers’ psychological health, previous justice minister Wong Yan-lung has stated, although urging the federal government to prioritise means to deal with the burgeoning disaster. In an distinctive interview with the Publish […]

Wong Yan-lung in a suit standing in front of a table: Former Hong Kong justice minister Wong Yan-lung. Photo: Xiaomei Chen

Former Hong Kong justice minister Wong Yan-lung. Image: Xiaomei Chen

Covid-19 has taken a hefty toll on Hongkongers’ psychological health, previous justice minister Wong Yan-lung has stated, although urging the federal government to prioritise means to deal with the burgeoning disaster.

In an distinctive interview with the Publish for Mental Wellbeing Month, the chairman of the government’s advisory committee on the situation stated the pandemic experienced delayed a big examine into the psychological very well-getting of city inhabitants by about a 12 months.

Hong Kong has endured a few waves of Covid-19, infecting extra than 5,200 individuals and killing over 100, as properly as social unrest, sparked very last calendar year by the now-withdrawn extradition bill.

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The city residents’ psychological wellness index slumped to a history very low in 2020, in accordance to an once-a-year survey performed by the Mental Wellbeing Thirty day period Organising Committee.

“Covid-19, jointly with other troubles, is using a deep toll on Hong Kong’s psychological overall health problem,” Wong explained, expressing be concerned the circumstance could get worse.

“The panic, uncertainty, lockdown, social distancing, and worse nevertheless, the related financial downturn and the bleak outlook, all these are actually coming jointly – the recipe for dampening mental wellbeing,” he explained.

At the peak of the previous waves of Covid-19, educational facilities and most amusement and sporting venues including bars, cinemas and karaoke lounges ended up shut, whilst general public gatherings had been restricted to no additional than two folks.

Alarming increase in youthful persons battling with psychological overall health challenges amid Covid-19

Means in combating mental wellbeing troubles have been tight in the city. With just above 400 psychiatrists serving a 7.5 million inhabitants, people typically want to wait around for months – about 30 months at the longest – to be witnessed by a doctor for the initially time at general public expert clinics. The demand from customers for aid from other professions this sort of as social employees and psychologists to tackle the crisis is also rising.

With the inhabitants ageing in Hong Kong, mental health and fitness troubles this sort of as dementia are commonly noticed amongst the aged, who have been rendered the most susceptible group by the pandemic.

Wong acknowledged the extensive ready time, and stated a paradigm change, not just in phrases of revenue, but also federal government priority, was wanted to deal with the trouble. He stated the two Britain and Australia prioritised psychological health and fitness for the duration of policymaking and resource allocation.

people around each other: Resources in combating mental health issues have been tight in Hong Kong. Photo: K. Y. Cheng

© Supplied by South China Morning Post
Methods in combating psychological wellness concerns have been restricted in Hong Kong. Photo: K. Y. Cheng

“(A British authorities report) actually suggested that the key minister should really specifically take cost of matters in conditions of mapping out the plan and so on. So, for them, the priority is that higher,” he explained.

Psychological wellbeing insurance policies in Hong Kong include the two the Food stuff and Health and fitness Bureau and the Labour and Welfare Bureau, with the latter doing the job with NGOs.

Figures from the two bureaus showed that there experienced been an enhance in shelling out on mental health and fitness expert services about the previous five several years.

In 2015-16, community hospitals expended HK$4.37 billion on inpatient and outpatient care, as well as ambulatory and community outreach companies. The determine was raised to HK$5.6 billion in 2019-20.

Such paying out by general public hospitals accounted for about 3 for every cent of the city’s total well being expenditure in 2018-19, the most current figures offered.

Yearly expenditure on rehabilitation providers subvented by the Social Welfare Department, which was under the Labour and Welfare Bureau, was also elevated from HK$714.5 million to HK$991.9 million more than the exact same time period of time.

As community health and fitness gurus warned of a fourth wave of the pandemic in Hong Kong in the winter, Wong identified as for amplified general public vigilance: “We have to be acutely mindful of the psychological well being deterioration … We have to have to attempt our most effective in the restrictions to assist just one an additional.”

Hong Kong jobs disaster sparks increase in serious emotional and psychological wellbeing difficulties

He reported the culture really should make superior use of data technologies to cope with the crisis. For instance, he cited on line counselling providers these as Open UP, which features round-the-clock assist to youths via social media platforms.

For the aged, movie phone calls with counsellors can assistance those who have been pressured to self-isolate by themselves and are not able to access care services because of to closures amid the pandemic. Employee-helpful guidelines need to also be adopted by companies to enable staff to perform from house, he additional.

Wong just lately released “Shall We Speak”, a public instruction and consciousness campaign named soon after a house Canto-pop tune, to stimulate pressured-out Hongkongers to prevail over social stigma and communicate out.

Experts warn Hong Kong's mental health situation could get worse during the pandemic. Photo: Handout

© Provided by South China Early morning Post
Gurus warn Hong Kong’s psychological well being scenario could get even worse for the duration of the pandemic. Picture: Handout

“It’s not a a single-off campaign … (it) is section of our in general public training programme, and a strategy to make improvements to the psychological well being circumstance.”

But Wong stated a essential plank of the system to combat the disaster – the government’s premier-ever review into the results in and extent of mental wellness troubles in the town – experienced been delayed by about a yr owing to the pandemic.

The examine, comprising two phases, started off in 2019. The initial period will deal with 3 surveys on at the very least 15,000 respondents across 3 groups: students aged 6 to 17, younger persons and school dropouts aged 15 to 24, and all those aged 60 or earlier mentioned. The second period will concentration only on older people.

The govt was before relying on details from the Hong Kong Psychological Morbidity Survey, which was executed concerning 2010 and 2013 and concentrated only on older people.

Hong Kong staff suffering get the job done pressure throughout Covid-19 pandemic

“We do not have the latest info to demonstrate us the precise dimension of the challenge,” Wong stated. The silver lining, he extra, was that extra men and women could come forward to consider part in the general public work out as psychological health as an concern came beneath the highlight amid the world-wide health crisis.

“When we see the survey results, we will know that this is so really serious that there will be a very solid situation to allocate a lot more sources and have more powerful resolve to deal with the problem,” he said.

Philip Wong Gentleman-lip, chairman of the Alliance of Ex-Mentally Ill of Hong Kong, reported resources to tackle mental wellness challenges experienced been especially stretched in the course of Covid-19. The non permanent closure of all the Built-in Group Centres for Psychological Wellness, which have been government-funded services in the city’s 18 districts supporting men and women with psychological illnesses, experienced been a issue for all those demanding assist.

“Some individuals do not know wherever to change for assistance,” he reported, including, “some are acquiring a relapse of difficulties as the tension is much too large”.

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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Article (, the foremost information media reporting on China and Asia.

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