What is Mental Health?
The WHO defines mental health as a “state of well-being" in which every individual realises his own potential, can cope with normal stressors of life, work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution in some way to the community”.
Mental health is our emotional, social and psychological state of mind which influences the way we think, feel and act in the world affecting the way we perceive and react to stressful events, interact with others and the decisions we make. Mental health conditions can affect any individual, across spectrums, culture and gender. Our mental health is important and must be considered at every stage of our life from childhood to adulthood.
Early Warning Signs for Mental Health
• Extreme changes in appetite and sleep patterns
• Having low or no energy
• Feeling helpless or hopeless
• Weakened immune system
• Loss of interest in usual activities
• Social withdrawal
• Feeling unusually frightened, on edge, confused or forgetful, upset, worried or stressed
• Unexplained aches and pains
Please seek professional help or go to your GP if you have been experiencing a number of these symptoms daily or persistently for 6 weeks and if they are causing disruption and impairment to daily living. You could be suffering from a mental health disorder.
Types of Mental Health Conditions
People with anxiety disorders respond to situations with fear and dread. They have recurring and repetitive intrusive thoughts, concerns or worries which are overwhelming and dominate the mind. The thoughts can cause disruption to daily living and functioning causing behavioural and emotional changes to take pace. Anxiety disorders can persist for months without an apparent cause for anxiety. Types of anxiety disorders are; Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Panic Disorder (PD), Agoraphobia, Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Generalised Anxiety Disorders (GAD) and Specific Phobias.
These disorders produce disruptive behaviour in adults or children and can cause problems at school, work, social situations or home if the correct treatment is not obtained – e.g. ADHD.
Involves persistent feelings of sadness or mania like depression or moods that fluctuate such as Bi-polar disorder.
Extreme and inflexible personality traits that are distressing to the person and may cause problems at work, school or social relationships – e.g. Antisocial Personality disorder and Borderline Personality disorder.
Involves extreme emotions, attitude and behaviours related to eating and issues with weight and food – e.g. Anorexia and binge eating.
Substance and Alcohol disorders:
Involves excessive abuse of alcohol and substances.
People with psychotic disorders suffer from a range of symptoms such as delusions or hallucinations – e.g. Schizophrenia.
Mental Health in Hong Kong
The Mental Morbidity Survey carried out by Lam et al (2015) surveying 5719 Chinese adults aged from 16-75 about mental health has provided us with insights about the prevalence of mental health in Hong Kong. The following results were found:
The one week prevalence of any common mental health disorder is 13.9% in Hong Kong. The most common mental health disorder is anxiety and depressive disorder experienced by 6.9% of the population, followed by Generalised Anxiety Disorder at 4.2% and panic, obsessive compulsive disorder, specific phobias at 2.9%. Amongst those with common mental health disorders, only 26% of them consulted mental health services in the past year. Women and young adults (16 - 23) have higher rates of any mental health disorders than any other groups. There were an estimated 916 suicides in HK in 2015. In every one hundred thousand, 12.6 have commited suicide (Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention, Hong Kong).
Teenage suicide rates in Hong Kong in the 2016 - 2017 academic year is the highest it has ever been due to increasing pressure in the education system, virtual world and lack of family time. Most common method for suicide is jumping or charcoal burning across ages. A recent study done by the Paediatric Society (2016) found that 27% contemplated hurting themselves to the point of suicide over the past 6 months. 66% of students turned to the internet to solve emotional problems instead of seeking professional help, which can be detrimental if they get misguided or the wrong advice. The problem of teenage suicides is a worrying one and intervention is necessary on so many levels.