Mental health is of increasing concern in Hong Kong’s notoriously high stressed society, especially among youth. In collaboration with CSG, Mind HK commissioned research to look at the mental health of young people and their accessibility to relevant services from the perspective of students themselves (aged 16-24), parents (with children aged 14-24), and educators.
Despite 75% of students aged between 16 to 24 claiming that they have good/ very good mental health status and mood, which is better than parents’ perception, most of them stated that they suffer from stress derived from academic performance, career, and parental expectations. The research also indicated that nearly half of the parents encountered difficulties seeking mental help support due to a lack of knowledge and awareness of available services. Nearly 90% (87%) of students rely on in-school counsellors and social workers for mental health support. 74% of youth surveyed stated that more low-cost mental health support is needed for young people in Hong Kong.
Currently, over 43,000 people are on the waiting list for psychiatric care, with over 1,200 of them being children or adolescents. The average waiting time in 2020 was around 60 weeks for child and adolescent outpatient psychiatric care. These figures reflect the treatment gap; low levels of help-seeking and shortages of mental support can partially be attributed to the high cost of private therapy and shortage of accessible professional therapists for young people in the city.
Mind Hong Kong (Mind HK) is a local mental health charity dedicated ensuring no one has to face a mental health problem alone. Today, Mind HK announced a pivotal partnership with the Jardine Matheson Group’s charity initiative – MINDSET Hong Kong (MINDSET) — to launch the “Mind HK and MINDSET Youth Wellbeing Training Programme”, funded by Jardine Matheson, Hongkong Land HOME FUND and HKEX Foundation.
The programme will offer a new training course for a cohort of 50 Youth Wellbeing Practitioners (YWPs), who will be trained to provide low-intensity intervention support to young people in Hong Kong. Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) will act as the programme’s academic partner, whilst King’s College London will also play a supporting role.
The programme aims to reach over 1,300 young people beneficiaries in the first year alone. Applicants are expected to have a basic knowledge of common mental health problems and some prior exposure to individuals experiencing mental health problems. A degree in mental health-related topics, prior experience in healthcare or other settings with exposure to people experiencing mental health problems is also desirable. Applications are now open and will close in January 2022.
As a pioneering initiative in Hong Kong, the YWP curriculum will adapt the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) model, which is currently being used for anxiety and depression treatment of young people, together with the Children and Young Person’s Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (CYP-IAPT), a successful evidence-based public mental health model implemented in the UK.
The Youth Wellbeing Practitioner Training programme will include over 100 hours of intensive theoretical training featuring basic counselling skills using the ACT model for common mental health problems and assessing ongoing clinical risk, followed by nine months of supervised clinical placements (e.g. Schools).
This will allow candidates to gain diversified practical mental health knowledge and experiences at no extra cost while at the same time contributing to the sector by adding capacity to the mental healthcare workforce. Upon completion of the course, the YWPs will be able to provide 6 – 8 sessions of guided self-help to young people aged between 12 to 24 who are experiencing mild to moderate psychological distress in Hong Kong by using a low-intensity, manualised intervention based on the principles of ACT.
Dr Hannah Reidy, CEO of Mind HK said: “Research from the World Health Organisation (WHO) indicates that 75% of mental problems develop before the age of 24 and 50% are established by the age of 14. The overall aim of this pilot programme is to improve accessibility to care for young people in need and provide support for schools and NGOs in Hong Kong who need to increase their mental health provision.
Most importantly, it will encourage early intervention for mild to moderate difficulties, and help prevent problems from becoming more serious or developing. Clinical data will be gathered and fed into a research study that will be carried out externally by researchers. This will provide insights on how we can work together with others to best improve mental health provision for young people in Hong Kong.”
Mr Andrew Wong, Board Member of MINDSET Hong Kong said: “As part of the Jardine Matheson Group’s long-term commitment to making positive and sustainable change in mental healthcare in the city, we are very excited to support this pilot programme and help to develop a great platform for practitioners to gain insights and skills to support young people in Hong Kong.”
In order to deliver quality service for patients, the programme is also recruiting experienced clinical supervisors to provide mentoring support, and to review and guide the trainees through their training and placements. The supervisors will be required to oversee a number of YWP trainees and offer a minimum commitment of three hours of weekly face to face supervision to ensure they adhere to the low intensity /ACT intervention protocols. Some clinical supervisors will also lead occasional groups in order to facilitate reflective practice and peer learning. Due to the demands of the role, the supervisors will all have an excellent working knowledge of ACT and experience in providing clinical supervision.
The application for the programme will take place online from now until the end of January 2022. For more details about the programme, entry requirements and application form please visit the official website.