Alarming Rise in Mental Health Issues Among Hong Kong Youth: Study Reveals Troubling Trends


Hong Kong Youth

A recent study conducted by the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) has unveiled disturbing statistics about the mental health of children and adolescents in the region. The government-commissioned study indicates that nearly one in four Hong Kong youths experienced at least one mental disorder in the past year, with over 8% of secondary school students contemplating suicide.

These findings have raised concerns about the well-being of the city’s younger generation, prompting a closer examination of the factors contributing to these alarming trends.

Overview of Study Results:

Published on November 29, 2023, the CUHK study involved interviews with 6,082 children and adolescents, including non-ethnic Chinese pupils, and their parents between 2019 and 2023.

The results revealed that 24.4% of individuals aged six to 17 had encountered at least one mental health issue in the past year. Furthermore, half of these young individuals suffered from two or more co-occurring mental health problems, showcasing the complexity of the challenges faced by Hong Kong’s youth.

Suicidal Thoughts and Attempts by Hong Kong Youth:

A particularly concerning aspect of the study was the revelation that more than 8% of secondary school students had entertained thoughts of suicide.

Among all respondents, 3.9%, 1.9%, and 1.1% reported having suicide ideation, plan, or attempt, respectively. Secondary school students, in particular, experienced higher percentages, with 8.4%, 3.8%, and 2.3% reporting similar experiences.

The rise in youth suicides this year, with at least 28 cases, adds urgency to addressing the mental health crisis among Hong Kong’s students.

Factors Influencing Mental Health:

The study identified significant factors affecting respondents’ mental health, including parental emotional distress, school-related problems, and clinically significant sleep issues.

Professor Patrick Leung Wing-leung of CUHK’s psychology department emphasized the impact of parental emotional distress on children’s development, highlighting the need for parents to play a supportive role. Unrealistic academic expectations and subsequent anxiety and depression were also highlighted as contributing factors.

Reluctance to Seek Professional Help:

Despite the prevalence of mental health issues, the study found that nearly half of caregivers were unwilling to seek professional help for their children. Reasons cited included underestimating the severity of the problem, fear of stigma, and a lack of knowledge on seeking assistance. This reluctance poses a significant challenge to addressing mental health concerns effectively.

Call for Action:

In response to the concerning findings, CUHK researchers made approximately 500 referrals for respondents found to have mental health issues. The study emphasizes the need for comprehensive support systems, including educational, family, and youth services, to address the multifaceted challenges faced by Hong Kong’s children and adolescents.

Recommendations and Urgency:

Prominent figures, including Wong Yan-lung, chairman of the city’s Advisory Committee on Mental Health, stressed the importance of prioritizing students’ mental health over academic progress.

Urging schools to provide space for both teachers and students, he emphasized the need to allocate adequate resources for mental health support on the frontline. Professor Paul Yip Siu-fai, a leading expert in suicide research and prevention, acknowledged the challenges faced by the medical system in addressing the mental health crisis but emphasized the urgency of taking action.

As Hong Kong grapples with the concerning prevalence of mental health issues among its youth, the CUHK study serves as a crucial wake-up call. The complex interplay of factors contributing to the well-being of children and adolescents requires a concerted effort from educational institutions, families, and mental health services.

The urgency to prioritize mental health and implement effective support systems is paramount in safeguarding the future of Hong Kong’s younger generation.

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