‘Address mental health issue’

HONG KONG: While mental illness remains mostly unrecognised and largely untreated, the whole world has endured a year of relentless Covid-19 virus siege.

The World Economic Forum, framing mental health from an economic viewpoint, warned in pre-Covid-19 that the global mental health crisis could cost, directly and indirectly, up to US$16 trillion (RM64.6 trillion) between 2010 and 2030.

One in four people are affected by mental health problems at least once in their life. Almost two-thirds of such cases never seek professional help.

Hong Kong was ranked the fifth most stressed population on Earth in a 2018 survey of 23 economies by Cigna, a health service company.

A study initiated by the Mental Health Month Organising Committee and conducted by the Chinese University of Hong Kong revealed the deteriorating state of people’s mental health. The average score of the 1,009 residents surveyed in 2019 was 44.6 points – the worst in eight years – significantly below the 52-point pass mark.

A study by the University of Hong Kong, released in August 2020, found 74% of Hong Kong residents showed moderate-to-high depressive symptoms, with over 40% showing post-traumatic stress disorder triggered by the months-long social unrest and the lingering pandemic.

The pandemic’s consequences of job loss, social disconnection and bereavement make things worse, says Patrick Corrigan, professor of psychology at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Corrigan is the principal investigator for the National Consortium for Stigma and Empowerment.

“Talking to loved ones is the prime antidote to stress, but the pandemic makes it impossible, ” he said.

The caseload of children and adolescents aged below 18 handled by the Hospital Authority’s psychiatric teams rose from 18,900 in 2011-12 to 364,00 in 2018-19, representing an increase of nearly 93% in seven years. This is an alarming trend that needs an urgent response.

The growing awareness of mental well-being enables early detection of youth’s mental issues, and this leads to the escalating register of cases, says Chen Juan, professor of applied social sciences at the Polytechnic University of Hong Kong. — China Daily/ANN

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