It's not okay as mental health poll shows toll

Local | Angel Kwan 11 Oct 2019

More than 60 percent of Hongkongers are considered to have poor mental health, according to a recent survey.

A mental health charity yesterday launched a #HowOkayAreYou campaign on World Mental Health Day, aiming to inspire Hongkongers to confront the mental health stigma and make a pledge to change their behavior.

The charity, Mind Hong Kong, and Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute jointly conducted a survey from September 16 to 19, interviewing 1,048 Cantonese-speaking locals aged 18 and above.

The survey found that 61 percent of respondents scored below 52 out of 100 on the World Health Organization Well-being Index, which is a widely used questionnaire used for assessing psychological well-being. A score of below 52 indicates poor mental well-being, with testing for depression being recommended. Past studies showed the below 52 score accounted for 26 percent in 2017, and 48 percent in 2018.

The average well-being score in the latest survey was 44.6 points, which is a significant drop from last year's 50.2 points, according to Mind Hong Kong.

Some 55 percent reported only feeling cheerful less than half of the time in the past two weeks prior to the study, while 61 percent have reported only feeling calm or relaxed less than half of the time.

In addition, 26 percent scored below the clinical depression cut-off score of 28 points, meaning they are at higher risk of having or developing clinical depression.

"It has been a very difficult time for Hong Kong over the last few months, however, Hong Kong's mental health problem has been recognized by the professional community as an issue for several years," said Cheng Po-wan, chief operation officer of Mind Hong Kong.

In response, Mind Hong Kong launched the #HowOkayAreYou campaign.

"When asked 'how are you,' the common response from Hongkongers was 'okay,' no matter how they felt, honestly," Cheng said.

"By asking the question 'how okay are you,' people are encouraged to talk more openly and honestly about their feelings and emotions."

"The first step to reducing the stigma around mental health is to increase the conversation around it," Cheng said.

He asked Hongkongers to make a pledge to change their behavior around mental health, along with launching a digital guide, which offers instructions on how to offer support to others.

The group also launched several WhatsApp sticker collections that provide options like "anxious," "ask for help," or "lonely" to help people shift away from the standard answer of "okay" and to communicate more honestly with family and friends.`

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