The number of patients receiving psychiatric treatment in Hong Kong has risen to nearly 230,000, representing an increase of 21 percent or 40,000 from the figure in 2011/12, according to the latest Report of Review Committee on Mental Health.
The committee also cited an alarming increase in the number of new cases among youngsters under the age of 18, up 52.3 percent over the same period, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Over the last three years, there were already 10,000 new cases in this age group, mostly involving autism or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), while cases of depression and anxiety disorder make up the rest.
In 2015/16, 12,589 new patients below the age of 18 received mental health treatment in public hospitals, up from the 11,900 cases in the previous year, representing an increase of 5 to 6 percent.
According to the Hospital Authority (HA), the overall number of mental health patients increases by 2 percent every year.
There is still a lot of catching up to do amid the rising number of cases, although an additional team of mental health doctors and nurses has been assigned to each of the hospital clusters.
According to HA statistics, the longest waiting time for non-acute cases under the age of 18 is 136 weeks in the New Territories East cluster, which is roughly around two and a half years. Other clusters require an average waiting time of 49 to 95 weeks.
The Food and Health Bureau started an annual review of the city’s mental health policy and services through the setting up of the Review Committee in May 2013.
The committee has suggested enhancing the capacity of multidisciplinary and primary care professionals in handling mental health cases.
To tackle student mental health problems, the Student Mental Health Support Scheme has been launched on a pilot basis across 17 schools in Kowloon.
The pilot scheme is being operated for two years with teams made up of psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and mental health nurses to assist students with the need for mental health support.
The trial would target to service around 100 to 200 students initially, with a view for a comprehensive rollout of the service to all schools in the city if the initial response is positive.
The reports also points out that among the 150,000 patients between the ages 18 to 65, around 30 percent are considered as severe mental cases such as schizophrenia.
Lo Sing-kit, supervisor at the United Social Services, a charitable organization, said the increase in the number of psychiatric cases comes from the growing recognition of mental health issues among children and other young people, and does not necessarily mean that more people are having mental afflictions.
Legislator Lee Kok-long, a member of the review committee, said the panel is preparing a preliminary report on the direction of government support towards those afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease, Ming Pao Daily reported.
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