Its Current Status and Collective Responses From Mental Health Professionals in Hong Kong
The 2019 Hong Kong protests, also known as the Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill (or Anti-ELAB) movement, are an ongoing series of demonstrations in Hong Kong that were triggered by the introduction of the Fugitives Offenders amendment bill by the Hong Kong Government. If enacted, the bill would allow local authorities to detain and extradite criminal fugitives who are wanted in territories with which Hong Kong does not currently have extradition agreements, including Taiwan and Mainland China.
This aroused concern and suspicion that the bill would subject Hong Kong residents and visitors to the Mainland Chinese jurisdiction and legal systems, undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy and its civil liberties. At the time of this writing, there continue to be serious confrontations between the police and protesters, so much so that many major highways linking key areas of Hong Kong are blocked by barricades and the city’s Mass Transit Railway ceases regular service after 10 pm daily.
Negative impact of social unrest on mental health
This unprecedented political crisis affects everyone in Hong Kong. There has been a deterioration in mental health among the people to its worst level in 8 years, 41% of survey respondents said that their mental health is being negatively affected by social unrest.1 Although the exact causes need to be elucidated by additional research studies, there are several possible reasons that explain how and why people are affected adversely by the recent social unrest.
1) Both protesters and the police are directly involved in repeated and major violent conflicts.
2) People working in areas where major confrontations between police and protesters happen are exposed to violent scenes or subjected to physical violence.
3) Families and friends disintegrate because of different political views, which results in shrunken social roles and support network.
4) Because of the socioeconomic downturn associated with traffic chaos and uncertainty among investors, many people who work in the service and tourist industries are facing salary cuts and unemployment.
Dr Ng is Consultant Psychiatrist and Department Head, Psychiatry, Kowloon Hospital, Hong Kong SAR, China; he is Chair, Coordinating Committee of Psychiatry, Hospital Authority of Hong Kong; he is also Honorary Clinical Professor, Chinese University of Hong Kong and President of the Hong Kong College of Psychiatrists. He receives research grants from the Health and Medical Research Fund of the Food and Health Bureau of the Hong Kong SAR Government.
1. Hong Kong happiness declines, survey shows, with quality of life shrinking and alarming results for mental health amid protest crisis. South China Morning Post. 11 October 2019.
2. Ahern J, Galea S, Resnick H, et al. Television images and psychological symptoms after the September 11 terrorist attacks. Psychiatry. 2002;65:289-300. 289-300.
3. Krans J, Naring G, Speckens A, Becker E. Eyewitness or ear witness: the role of mental imagery in intrusion development. Int J Cog Ther. 2011;4:154-164.
4. Bryant RA, O’Donnell M, Creamer M, et al. A multi-site analysis of the fluctuating course of post-traumatic stress disorder. JAMA Psychiatry. 2013;70:839-846.
5. Andrews B, Brewin CR, Philpott R, Stewart L. Delayed-onset post-traumatic stress disorder: a systematic review of current evidence. Am J Psychiatry. 2007;64:1319-1326.