Mental health plays an integral part of our wellbeing, though perhaps only a handful of us are aware of the relationship between our lifestyle and mental health. Even fewer are willing to seek help, not to mention thinking ahead to prevent our mental health from deteriorating. As many as 13.3% of Hong Kong adults suffer from common mental disorders, yet for those expressing interest in attending treatment sessions, many fail to show up due to time, geographical and financial constraints. There is a need for accessible help that people can get themselves before things get too difficult.
Lifestyle medicine enhances health via lifestyle changes, which have been proven to associate with risks in mental health issues. The team is developing a multi-domain lifestyle medicine drawing on evidence-based recommendations for public self-help. This non-invasive approach is often preferred over psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy because it’s free from perceived stigma, low-cost and has fewer side effects. Relevant topics and content of a validated programme developed by the University of Melbourne will be adapted, and enhanced with a culturally specific element — Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), trusted by most Chinese in general as a more holistic approach to overcome illnesses. The programme is disseminated via a smartphone application for its accessibility, scalability, as well as potential to overcome psychological barriers when compared to face-to-face treatment.
Elements in the programme include lifestyle psycho-education, exercise, diet and nutrition, mindfulness, motivation and goal setting techniques. All information is cross-validated by professionals.
The programme offers basic knowledge of mental health and understanding of how lifestyle factors contribute to mental health. Public members engaging in the app may improve both their mental and physical health at their own pace, while saving expenses necessary in conventional face-to-face treatments. The team will regularly update the app content based on latest research evidence. They also wish to invite relevant NGOs to apply the lifestyle medicine programme for more people in need.
– 37000 individuals interested in improving mental health or suffering from mental health problems
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.