The World Health Organization has projected that, by 2030, mental health-related issues will be the largest contributor to premature deaths and disability in the world due to loss of normal human function, coinciding with a rising incidence in mental health issues among youth, both globally and in Hong Kong. Furthermore, there have been studies showing a strong link between a lack of self-management of a young individual’s mental wellbeing and his or her tendency towards perpetrating a crime. The two combined calls for our urgent attention to provide the appropriate intervention and support to youths, especially those who may be screened to be at risk of being detrimentally impacted by these issues.
Recent efforts of non-profit groups and the government to address mental health among youth, in the form of health promotion campaigns, early assessment services for serious mental issues, and school-based pilot programs to deliver psychiatric service, reflect encouraging beginnings to tackle the issue. Nevertheless, moving forward, the Foundation believes that, to adequately address the mental health service gap among local youth, comprehensive mental health services catered to youth spanning the entire spectrum of care, from preventive education and screening to various levels of psychotherapy and clinical treatment as necessary, should be established as a norm of community health care, and streamlined under a single managing organization that can efficiently respond to needs in a timely manner.
Keen to partner with organizations which share the same ideas in facing this important topic, the Foundation is currently supporting The Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups to implement its 2-year comprehensive mental health promotion and counseling program, E. Positive (the “Program”), that targets youth 10-24 years of age with suspected deviant behaviors and potential mental health issues. Drawing from best practices adopted in the United Kingdom and Australia, the Program employs a stepped care model in service delivery, under which youths are matched to the appropriate intensity and form of psychotherapy, treatment and/or skill-building activities based on their individual assessment outcomes, with such components being delivered by different disciplines of personnel. This ranges from low- to high-intensity psychotherapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy delivered by trained social workers, to family counseling and referrals for clinical treatment by psychiatrists and clinical psychologists. Preventive support and screening are also delivered to a wider audience under the Program through the establishment of school-based referral and screening systems, and the creation of an e-mental health platform providing screening and self-guided counseling options to interested youth. Through this comprehensive service model, it is the Foundation’s hope that, in addition to raising awareness among youth-related circles about mental health and deviant behavior, the Program can deliver the appropriate levels of mental health support to identified youth in a timely manner, thereby potentially reducing their chances of further engagement in deviant behavior.