As we all know, Hong Kong people are notoriously busy when it comes to work. In seeking to ease the various stresses they encounter daily, some talk to family members or friends, while others choose to listen to music or exercise.
But if a co-worker is not only under a lot of stress but is also suffering from anxiety or depression, how do you handle the situation?
Mental health issues are pretty common among the local population.
According to the Hong Kong Mental Morbidity Survey (2010-2013), 13.3 percent of our Chinese population aged between 16 and 75 are suffering from mental health problems.
The number of people seeking consultation at psychiatric specialist outpatient clinics of public hospitals run by the Hospital Authority rose 6.2 percent to over 870,000 last year, from close to 819,000 in 2015.
A study carried out by the Hong Kong Christian Service showed that the percentage of local employees in our city demonstrating mild to severe symptoms of anxiety disorders increased to 65.4 percent in 2017, from 61.7 percent in 2009.
The study also found that the percentage of employees showing mild to severe symptoms of depression was up from 32.3 percent to 42.9 percent during the same period.
Many people find it hard to get along with co-workers who have mental health issues.
A female worker recently shared her story with us.
She said one of her colleagues told her she was suffering from depression and therefore was unable to handle too much work-related stress.
As such, the co-worker would often ask her for help in handling some of her workload.
However, she began to suspect that the co-worker was just taking advantage of her after checking the latter’s social media account, which contains a lot of pictures of the co-worker smiling and looking happy during her vacations overseas.
Still, she did not tell her superior about the co-worker, nor did she confront her about her happy pictures, for fear that she might be accused of violating her privacy or discriminating against mental patients.
In Britain, the Mental Health Foundation (MHF), a private charity, offers online information and suggestions on how to identify and help co-workers suffering from mental health issues.
For example, the MHF suggests that people shouldn’t force co-workers to talk about their condition, they shouldn’t be judgmental, and they shouldn’t try to diagnose them.
Instead, they should listen to them patiently when they talk and encourage them to seek professional support, the charity suggests.
The MHF website also provides contact information of various mental health service institutions across the country.
Mental health issues affect not only the patients but could also cause confusion and helplessness among their colleagues at work.
As such, we urge the Labour Department, Department of Health, Occupational Safety and Health Council, Hospital Authority, Equal Opportunities Commission, Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, and other relevant agencies to work closely with mental health organizations to formulate and push forward a set of guidelines on how people can identify, get along well with, and help their co-workers with mental illnesses.
In this way, a culture of caring about the mental health of others in the workplace can be promoted.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct 18
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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