HK psychiatrists volunteer to help city heal after stress of anti-government protests

01-Aug-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

A group of Hong Kong psychiatrists have volunteered to provide free or low cost mental health services for people affected by the recent social unrest in the city.

Describing the mental pressure faced by the city’s residents as more serious than during the Occupy movement in 2014, the Hong Kong College of Psychiatrists announced it would launch the new ‘Care4ALL’ mental health programme next week.

The scheme, which will run until February, will aim to provide preliminary assessment and consultation for people suspected mental health problems directly related to the recent social unrest.

“This time, the emotional disturbances experienced by people in reaction to the social turmoil is more serious. Violence has happened more frequently and non-stop,” said Roger Ng Man Kin, the college’s president. Common mental health problems triggered by the social unrest include depression, anxiety disorder, acute stress reaction, and post-traumatic stress disorder, said May Lam Mei-ling, the school’s vice-president. She cited an example of an older woman, who was diagnosed with acute stress reaction after watching the news on television until 3am last Monday, after late-night violence in Yuen Long MTR station, when a mob in white T-shirts attacked passengers indiscriminately. The woman woke up the next day and forgot where she was, and was afraid of being attacked, even at home, a symptom typical of acute stress reaction.

Lam advised the public to be aware of their own mental state, and that of people around them, and avoid spending too much time on the news, especially on videos that contained violent content.

Hong Kong has been rocked by weeks of protests against the controversial extradition bill, which has now been shelved, but would have allowed the transfer of suspects to jurisdictions with which the city has no such agreement, including mainland China.

Nearly 1 in 10 people in Hong Kong is likely to have depression, according to an earlier study by the University of Hong Kong nearly double the number five years ago.

“The mental pressure the whole city is facing is unprecedented. Not only the ones who join the protests are facing the pressure, but the whole city,” Phyllis Chan Kwok-ling, a college vice-president, said.

As of Tuesday, more than 50 psychiatrists had agreed to participate in the programme, and the college believes that number will rise.

“We hope to show that our college’s fellows are in line with the Hong Kong people. We hope to use our professional skills and enthusiasm to help the citizens to get through theses hard times,” Ng said.

The college wants to focus its services on those who have been adversely affected by the unrest, but who are not currently under legal investigations or charged with offences, and not been seen by a psychiatrist in the past two years.

The cost of a session will range from being free, to HK$800, excluding the medical expenses or other related medical services, depending on a patient’s financial situation.

Ng said mental problems caused by social turmoil were usually short-term, and could be cured in three to six months. He said the college would provide the service with a maximum of four sessions.

After finishing the four sessions, if patients still need psychiatric treatment, they will be referred for further treatment, under the arrangement of the Hospital Authority.


Category: Hong Kong

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