Not my Problem? Hong Kong’s Attitude Toward Mental Health is Changing


At the beginning of 2019, global health care benefits provider Aetna International, together with Mind Hong Kong (Mind HK), released interesting statistics from a large-scale survey of attitudes towards mental health in Hong Kong.

The research surveyed 1,210 randomly selected adults across all regions of Hong Kong on their attitudes and knowledge of mental health in the city, using three internationally validated questionnaires.

The statistics provide a useful snapshot of attitudes – revealing that while many believe Hong Kong should be more tolerant of those experiencing mental ill-health, they do not consider it to be a personal responsibility and are less willing to engage closely with this issue.

The survey revealed four key attitudes:

1.       60% of respondents agree that there is “something about people with mental illness that makes it easy to tell them apart”

2.       25% of respondents currently work with, or have worked with, someone with a mental health problem

3.       Approximately 60% do not know where to seek mental health help outside of hospitals, such as NGOs and other community organisations

4.       40% agree that one of the main causes of mental illness is a lack of self-discipline and willpower, implying a greater need for awareness and knowledge surrounding mental health

Funded by Aetna International, the research commissioned by Mind HK, a non-profit mental health initiative formed out of the Patient Care Foundation, was conducted in collaboration with Hong Kong University, the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (King’s College London), and Time to Change UK.

Dr Hannah Reidy, CEO of Mind HK said: “The research has brought international, validated scales to Hong Kong’s population, providing us with a basis for comparison with other countries and to provide a baseline for the future. It is clear that there is lots to be done to help improve knowledge and attitudes around mental health and mental health problems, and the stigma that surrounds the subject in Hong Kong”.

Kevin Jones, Chief Executive of Aetna Insurance (Hong Kong) Limited commented: “Mental illness is something we should and need to be talking about more. Just amongst our own members in Hong Kong, we have seen about a 30% increase in annualised claims for psychological and psychiatric services since 2015,”

He added: “We believe that everyone is equally deserving of affordable and accessible treatment for mental health issues – as well as support from their employers, colleagues, families and friends.”

This research formed part of Aetna and Mind HK’s wider de-stigmatisation campaign, which aims to introduce Hong Kong to the best global practices in supporting mental well-being.

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Backing this up, Aetna International’s health plans for employers offer a built-in Employee Assistance Program – at no additional cost – to help companies support the mental wellbeing of their employees. With the program, members get access to confidential counselling from behavioural health experts in 180 countries around the world; by phone, email, web and chat messaging via an app.

Aetna International also publishes content on its website to help the globally mobile manage the stresses of transitioning to a new country. The Aetna Explore Hub is publicly available and includes resources such as country guides, moving checklists and guides on adapting to new cultures and environments.

Interest in workplace culture, mental health and wellbeing around the globe is growing. As we put plans is place for our sister event, Make A Difference Asia, we’d be interested to hear how attitudes towards workplace culture, mental health and wellbeing in Hong Kong, and across Asia are evolving.

If you have insights to share, please contact me, Cheryl Liew, in Singapore at [email protected] or Claire Farrow in the UK at [email protected].

About the Author:

Cheryl Liew  – In going global, Make A Difference events is partnering with Cheryl Liew as Event Director of Make A Difference Asia. Cheryl is founder of Lifeworkz a firm headquartered in Asia which partners C-suite to evolve relevant, inclusive and high performing workplaces; since 2006 shaping the future of work and the future of Asia. This is done by focusing transformation through three niche areas — Contemporary Organisations, Culture, Gender & Generations Inclusion and High Performance without Burnout. Whether working with multi-national corporations in China and India, or consulting with retail brands and government agencies in Indonesia or Australia, the vision of LifeWorkz remains the same. As a Keynote speaker, author and executive high-performance coach, Cheryl is passionate about inspiring and empowering individuals to thrive without compromising the lifestyle they desire and certainly without burnout.



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