Thursday February 1 is Time to Talk Day. This means talking about mental health — at home, with friends, in the community and at work.
Working has been shown to be good for you; positive benefits include physical and mental activity, social contacts and support, an opportunity to develop and use skills, social status as well as the obvious like money and resources.
However, in Hong Kong, we have been identified as having the highest working time in the world with over 50 hours per week — so the waking time that employees spend at work may be just as long, if not longer, than they spend at home. In a recent large study of employees in Hong Kong, depressive symptoms were reported by 24% and anxiety symptoms reported by 31%. Despite this obvious need for support, evidence suggests that over 90% of people aren’t getting enough help in their industry…feeling that improvements are needed in the way it deals with mental health in the workplace.
In the UK, reports suggest that in 2014–15, anxiety, depression and stress accounted for 43% of all working days lost due to ill health. Further still, 1 in 5 people reported taking a day off due to stress. This is obviously a cause for concern — and yet up to 90% of people feel unable to be honest about the reason for their absence. Determined, energetic and purposeful high achievers at work may also be the most vulnerable, as they push themselves to work harder and harder to meet their own and others’ expectations.
The evidence suggests that mental health is not only an issue in the workplace in Hong Kong, but is one that is not being addressed and spoken about.
The ‘City Mental Health Alliance — Hong Kong’ is a not-for-profit membership-based organisation recently set up in Hong with the specific aim of supporting positive mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. Following on from principles from the successful London based CMHA (http://citymha.org.uk/) set up 5 years ago, the CMHA aims to ensure that mental health is firmly on the agenda within City organisations and is considered a boardroom issue. We want to ensure that people at all levels in the City can talk about mental health without fear or stigma, with the right language and that prevention is recognised as equally important as treatment to address mental health issues. The CMHA HK works specifically with organisations in the City of Hong Kong to help them achieve these aims through training, research, events, information, and sharing of knowledge all via the active efforts of the members.
The central tenet running through our work is the importance of communicating and on Time to Talk Day, as well as every day, we will be working closely with our member organisations as well as partner organisations in Hong Kong to ensure that mental health is being talked about and addressed in the workplace.