In the last four weeks, four deaths and various suicide attempts have occurred. Patients suffering from psychiatric disorders are on the rise. Police seek advice: experts warn that even people not involved in the protests are vulnerable.
Hong Kong (AsiaNews / Agencies) - After almost four weeks of unprecedented protests against the extradition bill, experts are warning that Hong Kong is facing a mental health crisis. In this short span of time, four deaths and various suicide attempts have been linked to the protests, as well as an increase in the number of patients who have undergone check-ups in the centers for psychological assistance.
According to the studies, not only the demonstrators but the entire community is at risk of depression: they include those who did not take part in the protests. Many police officers are also seeking advice. Some have been pushed to the limit by emotional and physical exhaustion, others fear for their safety and that of their families, after receiving online threats.
"There is a very strong collective emotion in society, which is unusual,” says David Yip, president of the Hong Kong Institute of Christian Counsellors and a clinical supervisor. “The worry is that it will be difficult for people to return to normal lives, even after the saga is over, especially for those who are already suffering from emotional disturbances and have lower mental resilience.”
Liu Kwong-sun, a specialist in psychiatry, estimates that 30 per cent of his clients suffering anxiety, depression and schizophrenia have experienced flare-ups since the protests began. “Some have required higher dosages of antidepressants,” Liu says. The community clinic he works at has also received an influx of new patients showing symptoms of insomnia, depression and mania.
Liu explains that direct exposure to traumatic events, as well as secondary exposure through video footage, television and social media, can lead to acute stress disorders. If symptoms persist for more than a month, it is considered a post-traumatic stress disorder and people should seek professional help.
The psychiatrist believes this is an opportunity for the Hong Kong government to review the public mental health care system. According to official data, the average waiting time for patients receiving psychiatric services is 22 weeks. Depending on the area, patients in stable conditions must wait 38 to 159 weeks for their first appointment.