Since 2017, around 14000 asylum seekers and refugees (mainly from South Asia) are waiting for settlement, appeal or deportation following their failed application for a refugee status in Hong Kong. They have limited rights and live far below the poverty line while waiting for their long-drawn-out asylum applications to be processed, by a system producing a near-zero recognition rate. Trapped and marginalised, many of them suffer from psychological issues, not to mention persisting psychological distress from fleeing war or other life-threatening events. This explains their higher rate of offending behaviour, which further aggravates discrimination. Catering to their mental health needs begs urgent attention. Several NGOs have been offering counselling services, but it may not be the most effective means in the long run.
The team is introducing to its NGO partners a psychoeducation programme targeting trauma-exposed adults. The programme has proven to improve post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, depression and anxiety over time. NGO staff members are trained to deliver this self-help programme, which educates asylum seekers and refugees about common psychological responses to traumatic events and normalising their current responses; breathing retraining for anxiety; skills in reducing fear and avoidance, as well as regulating distressing thoughts and negative emotions. Each training session lasts for two full days. Participants are equipped to help themselves instead of relying on psychologists of limited availability and accessibility to them.
Asylum seekers and refugees in Hong Kong are empowered with confidence and independence to manage their own distress, instead of feeling helpless and powerless. An improvement in their mental health thus reduction in offending behaviour will benefit the society as a whole. Participating charitable organisations can further strengthen their humanitarian programmes with the incorporation of therapeutic elements and provide better services to asylum seekers and refugees in the long run.
The team envisions the programme becoming an in-house training for more relevant NGOs, while further developing the programme to be adaptable in the Asia Pacific region, made available via an internet-based intervention.
– asylum seekers and refugees
– NGO staff working for asylum seekers and refugees
Man is an Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society, a Chartered Scientist and Psychologist on top of a full professor in CUHK. His research focuses on post-traumatic stress disorder and topics pertaining to health/clinical psychology and philosophical psychology. He earned his PhD in Psychology from the University of Sheffield and PhD in Philosophy from the University of Durham.
Angela is a registered clinical psychologist and an Associate Fellow of the Hong Kong Psychological Society. Her clinical experiences are mostly in social services and education settings. She has substantial experience in counselling children with diverse needs and their families. Her research focuses on the social and emotional development of children and adolescents, assessment and intervention, and play therapy. Angela got her PhD in CUHK.
Harold is a licensed psychologist in New York with research interests in multicultural issues in counselling and psychotherapeutic processes. He obtained his PhD in Counselling Psychology from the University of Maryland.