Date
18 October 2018
School-based psychiatric nurses can provide immediate support for students with emotional issues, while also offering timely and professional help for teachers who suffer from stress. Photo: HKEJ
School-based psychiatric nurses can provide immediate support for students with emotional issues, while also offering timely and professional help for teachers who suffer from stress. Photo: HKEJ

What HK can do to improve mental health of students, teachers

Learning is supposed to be fun. However, in recent years, students in Hong Kong have found themselves in growing stress due to excessive amount of homework and frequent exams.

The overwhelming pressure could take a heavy toll on the students’ mental health in the long run.

A recent study carried out by the Baptist Oi Kwan Social Service suggested that among 7,500 Secondary 1 to 6 students who were interviewed, 51.5 percent of them were suffering from depression.

Among such students, 34.8 percent showed mild symptoms of depression disorders, while 4.1 percent were rated “severe” to “highly severe” in relation to the problem.

Most of the students said the main sources of their stress included the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education examination, the schoolwork and their apprehension about the future.

To address the issue, since the school year 2016/17, the Food and Health Bureau, the Education Bureau, the Hospital Authority and the Social Welfare Department jointly launched the “Student Mental Health Support Scheme” on a pilot basis.

Under the program, multi-disciplinary professional teams made up of teachers, educational psychologists, school social workers and psychiatric nurses would provide support for students with mental health issues.

However, as of late February this year, only 17 schools have participated in the scheme and a mere 120 or so students have received help, a fact that calls into serious question the efficacy of the scheme.

Given this, I suggest the government promptly implement the “One School One Nurse” scheme, under which every school will have its own in-house psychiatric nurse so as to identify high-risk cases as soon as possible and intervene in a timely fashion.

Apart from primary and secondary schools, the government should also extend the “One School One Nurse” policy to our tertiary institutions.

Over the years, the issue of work-related stress among teachers has largely gone under the public radar.

According to a joint survey conducted by the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union and the Division of Clinical Psychology of the Hong Kong Psychological Society, as many as 81.2 percent of teachers believed that they were suffering considerably high to severely high degree of work-related stress.

Moreover, 29.2 percent of them said they had manifested medium to above-medium level of depression symptoms. However, only 10.5 percent of them have sought professional advice.

Amid this situation, it is equally necessary for both students and teachers to receive appropriate care in relation to the issue of stress.

While school-based psychiatric nurses can provide immediate support for students with emotional issues, they can also offer timely and professional help for teachers suffering from stress as well.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Sept 14

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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JC/RC

Legislative councilor and head of nursing and health studies in the Open University of Hong Kong

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