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?
UK : The Health and Care Professions Council - http://www.hcpc-uk.org/
US : American Psychological Association - http://www.apa.org
Canada : Canadian Psychological Association - https://www.cpa.ca/
Australia : Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency - https://www.ahpra.gov.au/
New Zealand: New Zealand Psychologist Board - https://www.psychologistsboard.org.nz/
European Union - European Certificate in Psychology - https://www.europsy.eu/
Hong Kong - Hong Kong College of Psychiatrists : https://www.hkcpsych.org.hk/
For clinical psychologists in Hong Kong (The Hong Kong Psychological Society) - https://hkps-dcp.org.hk/
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.