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The Importance of Mental Health

It cannot be stressed enough how many people in this world still view mental health as unimportant. The World Health Organisation defines health as ‘a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’. Therefore, mental health plays a big part in your overall health.

However, unfortunately till today, mental health remains largely misunderstood and not equated to physical health in terms of treatment or prevention. We always wonder why we have PE but not a lesson for mental health in school - Is mental health not as important as physical health?

Through this article, we will introduce the importance of mental health and how one can help themselves or others struggling with mental health.

Mental Health in Hong Kong

Just like any physical illness, mental health doesn’t have an age limit, and anyone can struggle with mental health or get diagnosed with a mental health condition.

There is an estimated 1 in 7 people in Hong Kong who will experience a common mental disorder at any given time, but 75% of them don’t seek professional help, leading to many suffering in isolation as a result of feeling shamed and weak, as well as the lack of awareness of their condition and a shortage of accessible professional support.

This needs to stop, for the benefit and future generations. There are more statistics that show that many environmental, personal and social stressors also contribute to mental health problems. The number has also increased in the past two years most likely because of the long pandemic that we are in globally.

More statistics in Hong Kong

Poor mental health can come from different areas in life. This includes, stressful life events, lack of regular exercise, alcohol and substance misuse, financial difficulties, living in public housing and chronic illness and more.

  • 61% of Hong Kong adults currently suffer from poor mental well-being

  • Anxiety and depressive disorders are the most common health issues in Hong Kong

  • 51.5% of teenagers now show symptoms of depression

  • 25% of teenagers demonstrate clinically high levels of anxiety

  • As for university undergraduates, 69% currently show symptoms of depression and 54% suffer from anxiety

  • 75% of mental illnesses develop before the age of 24

  • Youth suicide rate ( age 10- 19) are higher than ever with 1 in 3 primary school students and 40% year 7/ form 1 students at risk of suicide

  • 71% survey respondents were unwilling to live with mental health sufferers, with 1 in 3 even willing to end the relationship with those diagnosed with mental illness

  • More than 50% of the whole population believe they will be penalized at work or school for talking about their mental health challenges

What will happen if we just ignore our mental health?

Poor mental health can cause many unexpected problems and consequences in the future. It will also impact different areas in one’s life including school, relationship with others, family and more.

  • Worsening mental health problems : mental health illness doesn’t go away itself. The longer an illness persists, the more difficult it can be to treat and recover.

  • Chronic pain : our brain copes with stress differently. Chronic mental health illness can cause aches, pain and gastrointestinal distress that have no physical source. Over time, it becomes more detrimental to your physical health.

  • Chronic physical health issues : Living with a mental illness isn’t easy. If you neglect your mental health, it’s easy to neglect your physical health, eventually affecting your body.

  • Instability in your daily life : Mental health illness can make it difficult to deal with daily life. It can inhibit your ability to keep a job and interact with others. It can make it hard to stay focused on the task that you are doing.

  • Suicide : Untreated mental illness clouds your judgment, making you believe that there is no way out. It is estimated that approximately 90 % of suicides can be attributed to a mental illness that wasn’t treated.

  • Incarceration : Mental illness makes it difficult to conform to society, which can lead to inappropriate behavior or misconstrued actions.

Signs one may need help

  • Self harm or suicidal thoughts

  • Feeling very sad or withdrawn for more than 2 weeks ( crying regularly, feeling fatigued / unmotivated)

  • Sudden overwhelming fears for no reasons

  • Sudden or unexplained physical aches and pains such as headaches or backaches

  • Severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships

  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much

  • Trouble concentrating / remembering things

  • Repeated use of drugs or alcohol

  • Drastic changes in behaviour, personality or eating habits

  • Extreme difficulty staying still that can lead to failure in school or problems at work

  • Intense worries or fears that get in the way of daily activities

  • Extreme difficulty interacting with friends and/or family

  • Hallucinations, paranoia or delusion

  • Pressing feelings of hopelessness and emptiness

What to expect when you seek help from a professional?

When seeking help from professionals, they will want to know more about you and what prompted you to seek help in order to help. You might be asked about:

  • Your mood, thoughts and behaviours

  • Your lifestyle or any recent events in your life that might affect your well being

  • Any sleeping problem, changes in appetite or changes in your daily activities

  • Your and your family's medical history

  • Might run blood tests to explore any physical issues that may contribute to mood difficulties

Where can you get help?

Mental illnesses are serious and mental health should be taken as seriously as physical health. Many people deal with ongoing conditions that need attention – especially during a pandemic. Please know that you are not alone and it is totally okay to seek help whenever needed. We should never judge people that are suffering from mental illnesses and instead help them because many are suffering in silence. Offer to get them professional help with their consent, as the earlier they are treated, the earlier they’ll heal and get better.







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