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LCQ22: Mental health of employees

     Following is a question by Dr Hon Chiang Lai-wan and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, in the Legislative Council today (December 9):


     It has been reported that a number of suicide cases allegedly due to work pressure have occurred in Hong Kong in recent months. On the other hand, the Occupational Safety and Health Council interviewed 377 working persons by way of questionnaires last month to gauge their work pressure, depressive and anxious emotions, as well as mental health conditions. According to the survey findings, over 60 per cent of the respondents experienced a considerable degree of work pressure, 25 per cent suffered from symptoms of depressive and anxiety disorders of varying degrees, over 50 per cent were in a state of mental and psychological sub-health (e.g. with insomnia and disorganised thinking), and nearly one-fifth were even in a state of mental and psychological illness. It is learnt that the poor mental health of working persons not only reduces their productivity and attendance rates, but also affects their physical and mental well-being as well as their relationships with family members. In serious cases, it may even lead to tragic incidents resulting in casualties. Regarding the mental health of working persons, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether it has regularly conducted surveys on the work pressure faced by working persons in order to gauge their mental health conditions; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(2) given that quite a number of employees are unaware that their feeling dispirited may have been caused by work pressure and they therefore have not proactively sought assistance, whether the authorities have provided employers with guidelines on and support for identifying employees with mental health problems and providing training on management of work pressure for employees; if they have, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(3) whether measures are in place to support those working persons who suffer from mental illness or mood disorders due to work pressure in order to help them develop positive psychology; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(4) as it is learnt that quite a number of working persons do not have sufficient awareness of mental health, whether the authorities have put in place policies to promote occupational mental health so as to enhance such knowledge and awareness of working persons; if they have, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     The Labour Department (LD) is greatly concerned about employees' occupational safety and health, including the work pressure faced by them and the possible impact of such pressure on their mental health. In order to raise employees' alertness and awareness about work pressure and their understanding of the proper ways to manage work pressure, LD and the Occupational Safety and Health Council (OSHC) have done much, both in terms of quantity and diversity, to assist employers and employees in establishing a good working environment and creating a harmonious working atmosphere to prevent organisations and employees from being adversely affected by work pressure.

     My reply to the four parts of the question is as follows:

(1) OSHC conducts surveys of various scales from time to time on the work pressure faced by employees, including territory-wide and sector-specific work pressure surveys, and passes the results of such surveys to LD for reference. LD also sends staff to attend local and international conferences relating to mental health and work pressure, such as the conference and workshop on work stress management organised by OSHC every year, with speakers including local and international experts and scholars. LD also makes reference to local and international professional journals and relevant research reports as well as other local and international information on employees' mental health. Through the various channels mentioned above, LD effectively gauges the situation of work pressure faced by employees and their mental health status. We consider that there is currently no need to conduct regular surveys on the matter.

(2) and (4) In order to promote proper understanding of and measures for managing work pressure to employers and employees, LD and OSHC have published a variety of promotional publications and information and organised various forms of publicity activities. LD has published a "Work and Stress" booklet, while OSHC has published a "Work Stress Management" DIY kit and on-line work stress assessment. Such information provides practical measures for preventing and managing work pressure at personal and organisational levels.

     As for publicity activities, LD organises public talks and workshops to strengthen employers' and employees' understanding of work pressure management. As at the end of October this year, LD had organised a total of 102 talks and workshops. OSHC also co-organises a variety of activities with various organisations, including talks, training courses and conferences, to train employers and employees from different sectors on how to manage work pressure, and to understand causes of work pressure and ways to manage and relieve such pressure effectively from different perspectives, so as to share amongst participants positive thinking and strengthen their mental health.

     Since 2011, LD and OSHC have introduced and co-organised an "Occupational Health Award" relating to work pressure in the "Occupational Health Award Forum and Award Presentation" every year to give recognition to organisations achieving outstanding performance in work pressure management, and to promote occupational health culture amongst employers and employees. Besides, OSHC has also publicised the above-mentioned work and activities through radio and newspapers to further disseminate the message to employers and employees.

     Furthermore, the Department of Health has commenced preparatory work in 2015 for launching a three-year territory-wide public education and publicity campaign on mental health. The objectives of the campaign are to increase public engagement in promoting mental well-being and increase knowledge and understanding of the public (including working persons) about mental health.

(3) Employees suspected to be suffering from mental or emotional problems arising from work pressure may seek consultations at the occupational health clinics of LD. Apart from providing counselling on the prevention and management of work pressure, occupational health doctors and nurses will refer them to the Hospital Authority (HA) for follow-up if necessary. HA may provide appropriate professional support for patients with varying degree of mental health problems (including those suffering from mental or emotional problems as a result of work pressure) and their family members.

     HA launched, in 2010, the Integrated Mental Health Programme which was expanded to cover all hospital clusters in 2011-12, to provide appropriate support for patients with mild mental illness (such as those having mild depression or anxiety disorder symptoms) in primary care settings. Patients with mild mental illness are provided with diagnosis and appropriate treatment, including individual or group counselling and psychological and drug treatment, in primary care settings at designated general out-patient clinics in the seven clusters of HA. The services are provided by multi-disciplinary teams led by family medicine specialists in collaboration with psychiatric specialists.

     For patients with complicated mental illness (such as emotional distress, anxiety disorder and depression), HA's multi-disciplinary psychiatric team comprising psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses, clinical psychologists, occupational therapists and medical social workers provides patients with appropriate treatment and training, including hospitalisation, out-patient consultation, daytime rehabilitative training, community service and other support services (including psychological treatment), according to the clinical needs of these patients.

     Besides, medical social workers of the Social Welfare Department (SWD) are stationed in psychiatric hospitals and clinics of HA to provide counselling and support services to mental patients or ex-mentally ill persons to help them cope with emotional, family and relationship problems arising from illness, and to apply for or refer them to receive rehabilitation services and community support services. SWD also provides subvention to non-governmental organisations to operate a total of 24 Integrated Community Centres for Mental Wellness across the territory to provide one-stop, district-based and accessible community support services, ranging from early prevention to crisis management for ex-mentally ill persons, persons with suspected mental health problems and their families and carers, and residents in the district.

Ends/Wednesday, December 9, 2015
Issued at HKT 13:14


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