Our city’s overall mental health is deteriorating at an alarming rate. In 2017, it was estimated that about one in five people in Hong Kong had suffered from certain levels of mental health problems. However, less than 30% of individuals had sought mental health services for their problems. Despite technology having opened a new frontier in mental health support, those with poor digital literacy may still encounter barriers in locating necessary information. What is worse, as we are better connected than ever and surrounded by people – both in reality and the virtual world, it often feels as if no one is really listening. There is an urgency to reach out to the unreached community and empower them to take action for better mental health via innovative means.
The team is conducting two whole-of-community projects. Firstly, they are first delivering a pocket-sized booklet series on well-being to several neighbourhoods. Based on evidenced-based cognitive behavioural therapy and lifestyle medicine, each booklet covers common mental health problems and self-help tips with links to audios and videos, which commuters may read and make the best use of their time.
Secondly, the team is launching a Sidewalk Talk Community listening project, in which student volunteers are trained to practise hear-centred, non-judgemental listening in a public space. Pedestrians are invited to freely share anything to volunteer listeners, supervised by a clinical psychologist. The well-being booklets are also distributed to these participants in hope of fostering self-efficacy.
The team aims at providing an approachable entry-level step for those interested in improving their mental health, particularly by facilitating access to evidence-based information for the unreached communities and promoting a culture of active listening. The booklets equip public members with self-help techniques and knowledge on how lifestyle choices improve their psychological well-being. The Sidewalk Talk project cultivates empathetic listening techniques in students that they may apply in daily settings, further promoting positive social interactions. Synergy between the two arms creates neighbourhoods with awareness and connects their members with one another.
The team may invite NGOs to collaborate and extend the Sidewalk Talk series to serve specific populations, such as persons in recovery.
– >10,000 public members
– 10-20 trained volunteers who are interested in practising empathetic listening and connecting with people
Fiona focuses her research on low-intensity psychological intervention for common mental disorders and integrative medicine (such as cognitive behavioural therapy and traditional Chinese medicine), actively seeking new models for effective mental health services. She is also interested in studying sleep disturbance in psychological disorders. Fiona received her PhD in Clinical Psychology from HKU.