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HK ethnic minorities face higher mental health risks: survey

Cultural and language barriers, high cost and extremely busy life are among the main factors behind the problems, it found
A new survey found about 30 percent of ethnic minorities in Hong Kong face higher risks of mental health disorders.

A new survey found about 30 percent of ethnic minorities in Hong Kong face higher risks of mental health disorders. (Photo: Hong Kong Christian Service)

Published: February 02, 2024 10:23 AM GMT
Updated: February 02, 2024 12:17 PM GMT

About 30 percent of ethnic minorities, mostly from South and Southeast Asian nations, face higher risks of mental disorders due to various factors including cultural and language barriers, high cost, and extremely busy life, says a new survey.

Some 28.6 percent of 273 people surveyed by the charity group, Hong Kong Christian Service (HKCS), said they have faced mental problems because of ‘cultural and language barriers,’ mental health services were ‘expensive’ and they were too ‘busy’ to avail such mental health services, the group said in a press release on Feb. 1.

Over half of the respondents said language barriers are obstacles to seeking help.

The Mental Health and Barriers to Help-seeking Among Ethnic Minorities survey was carried out from January to August last year.

It was a collaboration among HKCS, the Department of Psychiatry of the Faculty of Medicine at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, and the Department of Social Work and Social Administration at the University of Hong Kong.

Feeling ashamed

The survey revealed that 37 percent of ethnic minorities did not know where to seek help when facing mental health problems. 32.6 percent considered mental health problems to be shameful, and 42.9 percent believed mental health problems would go away on their own.

The most common obstacles to seeking help reported by ethnic minorities were ‘expensive’ (68.9 percent), ‘cultural and language barriers’ (56.0 percent), and ‘busy’ (48.7 percent).

Besides, ‘employed full-time/ self-employed respondents’ and ‘male respondents’ were more likely to be affected by these obstacles and refused to seek help.

A vicious cycle

The survey also found that 22.8 percent of the respondents were at high risk of depression, and around a tenth were at high risk of anxiety (13.6 percent) or insomnia (12.2 percent).

Overall, 28.6 percent were at high risk of at least one disorder. Compared with the low-risk group, the high-risk group had poorer quality of life and health and faced more barriers to seeking help.

Mike Cheung, service head of Multicultural, Rehabilitation & Community Service, HKCS, stated that the high-risk group, facing more significant difficulties in seeking help, would easily fall into a vicious cycle. He said urgent actions are needed to support them to seek professional services.

More education, support and collaboration

The research team made several recommendations based on the survey results.

The research team advocated for cross-sectoral collaboration to remove barriers to help-seeking for ethnic minorities, the release said.

The team also suggested enhancing ethnic minorities’ understanding of primary mental health services, encouraging cross-sectoral collaboration to support the mental health of ethnic minority employees, and improving existing mental health services.

It urged the authorities to realize the necessity of enhancing ethnic minorities’ understanding of primary mental health services and help them to avail free or low-cost mental health services.

Cultural diversity and sensitivity training should be provided to staff in existing mental health services to enable them to understand cultural differences and provide more accurate and ethnic minority-friendly services, the team added.

“Cultural diversity and sensitivity is about recognizing and respecting the differences and protecting the rights of the underprivileged. When social service providers have cultural diversity and sensitivity, it helps avoid prejudices or stereotypes, making the service more friendly,” said Paul Wong, associate professor & clinical psychologist at the Department of Social Work and Social Administration, University of Hong Kong.

“In daily service delivery, we can reflect more on the impact of the social environment on our self-perception, pay attention to whether our “language” is multicultural, and affirm the abilities and strengths of the service recipients, thereby cultivating cultural diversity and sensitivity,” he added.

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