23 March 2019
Children and youngsters will be covered in the government's survey on mental health for the first time. Photo: Xinhua
Children and youngsters will be covered in the government's survey on mental health for the first time. Photo: Xinhua

Mental health census covering HK youth to be held next year

The government is planning to conduct a large-scale survey next year to determine how many children, youngsters and seniors in Hong Kong suffer from mental illness.

This is the first time that children and youngsters will be covered in a survey of this kind, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

Wong Yan-lung, chairman of the Advisory Committee on Mental Health, told a press conference on Thursday that the census seels to gather comprehensive data to identify the problems and their roots before assisting the government in developing policies, strategies, and measures to enhance mental health services in the city.

His advisory committee was established in November last year to replace the Review Committee on Mental Health formed by the previous two administrations.

A similar census was conducted from 2010 to 2013 and found that 13.3 percent of those aged between 16 and 75 were suffering from mental illness.

But the former justice secretary said the finding may be already outdated, adding that children have never been covered in past surveys.

Data from the Hospital Authority shows that as many as 30,000 people received treatment from public hospitals for mental problems in 2016, up 50 percent from the previous year, but the committee believes the figures need to be updated.

As such, in the first quarter of next year, the committee will conduct a mental health census for three age groups-students aged between 6 and 17; those aged 15 to 24 who have dropped out of school, are working or are considered youth at risk; and seniors living in communities and homes for the aged.

All the three censuses are expected to be completed by the end of 2021 or the middle of 2022, according to the committee, which noted that a similar one for adults will begin in 2020.

Wong said the mental health issue among children and youngsters might be more serious than generally thought, especially due to the fact that some of them have not shown any symptoms yet.

As such, it is important to identify them as early as possible and provide them with proper treatment so as to lessen social burdens, he said.

Calling the prevalence of mental illness in Hong Kong astonishing, Wong said his committee aims to change the current situation, in which the authorities in charge and relevant community organizations have been doing the work without any coordination and cooperation.

There is a need to bring society together to jointly deal with issues related to mental health, he said.

Ching Chi-kong, assistant director of the Mental Health Association of Hong Kong, disagreed with Wong’s assessment about overlapping in the use of resources.

He said the committee should instead focus on how to solve the lack of manpower needed to provide services for mentally ill people.

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