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Letter | Listen to undergraduates’ mental health concerns

Letter | Listen to undergraduates’ mental health concerns

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The global prevalence of youth mental ill health and the recent spate of suspected suicides among students, including those in university, in Hong Kong are pressing concerns that require attention and support. Young people’s input into any mental health promotion or advocacy initiative is crucial to our understanding of their pain points, yet their voices are often inaudible.

As mental health professionals and university educators, we are obliged to equip students with theoretical knowledge and self-reflection skills for their mental well-being and the community’s. In addition, it is our responsibility to amplify their voices as much as we possibly could.

During our common core course in mental health literacy, students have shared their challenges and perspectives on the current state of youth mental health. Many students have identified academic stress as a significant obstacle to their mental health. The pressure to enter a world-leading university and maintain a very high grade point average (GPA) leads many to equate their self-worth with academic success.

Since many no longer stand out as star students amid a sea of talented peers, they often find themselves in a perpetual state of competition and with a compromised sense of self-identity. Specifically, freshmen face the additional challenge of having to adjust to a new environment quickly. These stressors, coupled with the fear of being despised or bullied, prevent them from expressing their concerns.

To tackle these issues, students shared that more academic breaks, a bridging programme that facilitates a smoother transition to university, and perhaps a GPA waiver for the first semester may provide them with a grace period in which to adjust and build the mental capital to face daily challenges.

Normalising conversations about mental health will encourage them to seek help. Support systems – family, teachers and peers – can be educated about becoming mental health gatekeepers who safeguard students’ well-being by referring them to proper help when necessary. Students further advocated for mental health to be a compulsory subject taken as early as possible (like physical education in secondary school), so young people can be more aware of their mental health status.

By empowering students to co-create the narrative, we can develop a more comprehensive, efficient and effective approach to improving university students’ mental health. We believe that a diversified, harmonious, relaxed, safe and stable learning environment can foster their whole-person development as future leaders.

Charmaine Choi and Paul W.C. Wong, department of social work and social administration, University of Hong Kong

If you have suicidal thoughts or know someone who is experiencing them, help is available. In Hong Kong, you can dial 18111 for the government-run Mental Health Support Hotline. You can also call +852 2896 0000 for The Samaritans or +852 2382 0000 for Suicide Prevention Services. In the US, call or text 988 or chat at for the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. For a list of other nations’ helplines, see this page.

DSE exam is a milestone, not a destination

I am writing to express my appreciation of the team behind the documentary Once Upon a Time in HKDSE.

The film is truly inspirational. It shows the impact of the Diploma of Secondary Education exam on youngsters through the real journey of a teen. There are sincere and candid comments and reflections from DSE students, former exam sitters, parents, educators and tutors. The film also explores the purpose of public exams and the true definition of success.

As someone who sort of succeeded in the exam, I had nightmares about it even after I became a teacher. The pressure the exam puts on individuals is tremendous. Yet it’s equally true that exams lead us to maturity. Maybe that’s why they are considered a necessary evil. What matters is how we prepare for them and respond to the outcome.

The more we understand this, the readier we are to face exams properly and positively, and to start a new chapter of life when we finally get the results, whether good or bad.

The DSE, like many other events, is a milestone in life marking personal growth. It can be bittersweet, tinged with sweat and tears. We must remember that the DSE is not the destination, and that multiple career pathways exist.

Teenagers are not alone, for many people around them are rooting for them, starting with the team behind Once Upon a Time in HKDSE.

Ronica Chan, Discovery Bay

Why aren’t traffic penalty notices sent with photo proof?

I was recently issued with a traffic penalty of HK$560 (US$72) for disembarking from a vehicle along double yellow lines. I was allowed to dispute the penalty, which meant I would have to appear in front of a magistrate and should my appeal fail, I would have to pay an extra fine.

While I believe that the penalty was justified, I was not given any evidence that I had violated the law. Previously, a traffic warden would catch you on the spot and issue you with a ticket. In this instance, I believe that an officer of the law must have taken a photo from a distance and sent the penalty notice.

Wouldn’t it be fairer to send a copy of the photo proving the violation along with the ticket? I decided against going to court. However, it left me feeling disgruntled because I felt I had no say in the matter and was not shown proof that I had made a mistake.

Deepak Mirchandani, Jardine’s Lookout

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