Sham Shui Po tragedy highlights lack of support for ethnic minority families due to language and cultural barriers, says Hong Kong Unison

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John Tse Wing-ling,

5th June 2023 – (Hong Kong) A horrific incident occurred in a tenement unit on Kweilin Street in Sham Shui Po on 5th June. The family involved was of South Asian descent, and three young girls aged between 2 to 5 years old were found dead. The Indian mother of the girls later admitted to committing the crime. According to John Tse Wing-ling, the General Secretary of Hong Kong Unison, ethnic minority families face multiple pressures, including economic hardships, which can have a significant impact on their mental and psychological well-being. However, mental health services for these families are scarce, and even when available, language barriers and cultural differences can hinder access to these services, leaving them to deal with their problems alone.

During the pandemic, ethnic minority families were particularly vulnerable to physical, psychological, and mental health issues. Tse noted that many of these families were already struggling financially, and a survey conducted during the pandemic found that half of the respondents from ethnic minority households faced unemployment. Living in cramped living conditions, mothers had to take care of their children for extended periods while facing significant mental stress. “How can we expect their mental health to be good when they have to deal with a heavy family burden in a small living space?” Tse said. The accumulated pressure can lead to emotional breakdowns and other mental health issues.

Tse went on to explain that mental health services in Hong Kong are already limited, and language barriers make it challenging for ethnic minority families to access them. Even worse, there are almost no mental health services specifically designed for ethnic minority families. Tse pointed out that many of them feel “trapped” in their closed communities, especially women, who often struggle to gain respect in traditional ethnic minority families. They are reluctant to seek help and are less likely to access the available resources, even when they are in need.

The tragedy that occurred on Kweilin Street highlights the urgent need to provide better mental health services and support for ethnic minority families. This includes addressing the language barriers and cultural differences that hinder access to these services and promoting awareness of mental health issues within these communities. It is also crucial to provide education and resources to help families cope with the multiple pressures they face, including financial hardship, cramped living conditions, and the responsibility of caring for young children.

The Hong Kong government must take action to address this issue and provide better mental health services and support to ethnic minority families. This includes ensuring that services are available in multiple languages, providing culturally sensitive care, and improving access to information about available resources. Additionally, community organisations and NGOs must work together to promote awareness of mental health issues and provide support to those in need. Only by working together can we prevent tragedies like the one that occurred on Kweilin Street from happening again.

Meanwhile, the Social Welfare Department (SWD) is highly concerned about a family tragedy that happened in a building on Kweilin Street in Sham Shui Po today.

The woman and her three daughters involved in the incident is an active case of an Integrated Family Service Centre operated by a non-governmental organisation. The SWD will approach the relatives concerned as soon as possible and render appropriate assistance according to their welfare needs.

The SWD will set up a mobile service counter jointly with a non-governmental organisation outside Exit C2 of MTR Sham Shui Po Station at 4pm. Social workers will provide assistance and service information to those in need.

The SWD operates a 24-hour hotline 2343 2255 to provide immediate telephone counselling, support and referral services. Members of the public in need may call the hotline for assistance.