Depression, anxiety cases surge among youngsters

Top News | Katherine Au 29 Aug 2016

Nearly 40 percent of secondary students may be suffering from depression, the highest in four years, according to a survey.

Baptist Oi Kwan Social Service said yesterday that 38.7 percent of 15,505 students in 42 secondary schools from 14 districts - interviewed from October 2015 to May 2016 - displayed symptoms of depression and 31.2 percent showed anxiety symptoms, a 2 percent increase from last year.

The top reason for the negative emotions was academic pressure.

Depression and anxiety symptoms were more noticeable in Secondary Five and Six students than those in the lower forms, though 15 percent in Secondary One were already starting to worry about the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education.

It was also noted that depression and anxiety symptoms were more noticeable in girls - 41.4 percent and 37.5 percent respectively - than boys - 36 percent and 24.8 percent.

Two-fifths of the students, 41.5 percent, said they feared going to school, reflecting the bane of academic pressure. Around 25.5 percent had a low self-esteem and lacked confidence.

In addition, 23.3 percent worried about the future though things were currently going smoothly.

Several thousand claimed they suffered bouts of insomnia, which added to their state of depression and anxiety.

Social worker Thomas Fung Chak- tong said boys were more likely to be bullied by their peers though this lessened as they grew older.

Other than academic pressure, peer isolation and the lack of family communication were other factors that caused anxiety and depression problems.

A 17-year-old female student said she started suffering from depression in Secondary Two. She was isolated by her classmates and even mutilated herself because of loneliness.

"It gradually got worse and I could not sleep at night so I hurt myself more frequently," she said.

But with the support of her family, teachers, classmates and social workers, and also by taking anti-depression drugs, her condition improved after one year.

According to the survey, the better the quality of family communication the lower the chance of children becoming depressed.

Clinical psychologist Kwok Wai- wai said family, school and government support form an "unbreakable chain" that can solve the mental health problem of students

Cases received by the mental health service are the highest in four years.

Cases referred by schools have risen from 57 last year to 118 cases this year, a 107 percent increase.

"We urged the government to increase resources for mental health so the schools can get enough social workers or nurses to cope with the emotional problems of students," Kwok said.

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