Youth suicide cases in Hong Kong have been rising in recent years, raising public concern over school-related stress and other emotional issues.
I recently brought up the subject in the Legislative Council and asked the administration how many school-based clinical psychologists are helping students with stress disorder.
It’s no longer news that Hong Kong has a shortage of psychologists and psychiatrists.
But I was not expecting a stunning revelation from the government.
It said that as of March 18, 2016, the University of Hong Kong (HKU) had five clinical psychologists.
The Chinese University had four and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology three. But Baptist University had two and City University just one.
Polytechnic University and Lingnan University had none.
HKU had 27,933 students during the period, which means it had one clinical psychologist for every 5,500 students.
That is unacceptable.
Our universities have the benefit of in-house social workers but they don’t have the expertise to deal with clinical stress and psychological issues.
As a result, students who suffer from stress or mental disorder often miss their best chance to get help.
In primary and secondary schools, the situation is not much better.
Despite a government policy aimed at ensuring one social worker for every school, clinical psychologists are rarely found in primary and secondary schools.
The American Association for Educational Psychology says the proportion of clinical psychologists to elementary and high school students should not be less than one to 1,000.
Hong Kong is way below that standard.
Even if the government wants to deploy more clinical psychologists to our schools, there are simply not enough of them.
According to official figures, about 15 to 25 students specialize in clinical psychology from among the ranks of medical graduates each year during the past five years.
The government should allocate more resources to training homegrown clinical psychologists and providing incentives to psychology majors abroad to return to Hong Kong when they graduate.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 18.
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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