This weekend will mark World Mental Health Day, at a time when understanding and taking action to address our mental health needs has never mattered more.
The pandemic has certainly brought mental health to the forefront although there are clear gender differences. According to a global study by CARE, women have been three times more likely than men to report higher levels of depression, anxiety and stress during COVID-19. This can be attributed to several factors: greater instances of sexual and domestic violence which lead to post-traumatic stress disorders, increased domestic and caregiving responsibilities as well as increased labour and stress for frontline workers, the majority of who are female.
While men may have lower anxiety and stress levels, research has indicated they have higher rates of suicidal ideation and confide less in social networks or professionals to seek support. Despite widespread knowledge that the types of mental health disorders, prevalence and help-seeking behaviours differ between men and women, there is an alarming paucity of gender specific research examining these differences. Research shows less than 1% of clinical trials intend to analyse the results by gender.
In Hong Kong, we are not immune to the strain the pandemic has had on our mental health and well-being. A HKU study revealed 25% of respondents reported that their mental health had deteriorated since the pandemic, with 19% reporting depression and 14% reporting anxiety. A survey earlier this year among Hong Kong employees from the Mental Health Association of Hong Kong and Tung Wah College found that over 60% of respondents suffered from burn-out symptoms and a separate study noted that 51% of secondary students and 69% of undergraduate students have symptoms of depression, respectively. Equally worrying are the high percentages of individuals who are stigmatised for an issue related to mental health or those who simply don’t know where to seek mental health support at work or in society.
While it has been heartening to see the increased attention and resources going into supporting mental health in public and private sector over the past 20 months, more work needs to be done. Government, employers alike need to continue to normalise conversations around mental health and ensure individuals know what support is available to them. Gender sensitive awareness-raising, responses and interventions need to be taken into consideration. Vulnerable groups may need particular support or attention. As individuals, there is much we can do to help maintain our own mental and help care for the mental well-being of others. Here are some simple actions as a starting point. Mind HK has mental health resources to address different situations or consider following Instagram accounts from this list for daily mental well-being tips.
Good mental health is fundamental to our ability to lead productive, meaningful lives and to be able to show resilience in the face of change and adversity. Let’s work together to continue to normalise talking about our mental health and seeking support, and encourage each other to prioritise our individual and collective well-being.
Get in touch at Fiona.Nott@twfhk.org
PS We are reviewing the Chief Executive’s Policy Address with interest and will be in touch with our take next week!