4th June 2023 – (Hong Kong) The recent bloody murder at Plaza Hollywood has shocked the entire city, and has brought attention to the issue of inadequate mental health services. Professor Terry Lum, the Henry G. Leong Professor in Social Work and Social Administration at the University of Hong Kong, has expressed concerns that the current measures may not be enough to address the problem. While Hong Kong has mental health services, the tragedy highlights the need for increased resources and manpower to meet the demand.
Currently, there is no diversion program in place for mental health patients in the community, which means patients have to wait a long time for treatment or follow-up. Professor Lum suggests that authorities should explore ways to shorten the waiting time, such as allowing patients to have a monthly or bi-weekly follow-up.
There are nearly a thousand psychiatrists and clinical psychologists in Hong Kong, but they are unable to meet the demand for mental health services. One way to alleviate this problem is to establish a diversion program, which includes adding mental health services to community health centres. Primary care physicians can provide support for patients with mild to moderate mental health issues, while patients with more severe illnesses, such as schizophrenia, can be referred to specialist psychiatrists for treatment.
In terms of manpower, Professor Lum acknowledged that it is difficult to train a large number of psychiatrists and clinical psychologists in a short period of time. He suggested that existing human resources, such as the 17,000 active registered social workers in Hong Kong, could be trained to provide direct support to mental health patients. Counsellors could also receive additional training to help deal with cases of depression and stress.