Hong Kong: MSF closes its mental health project and explores new ways of engaging with vulnerable communities
The Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) mental health project in Hong Kong is closing in mid-May, as planned, after six months of activities. The project included a training programme, workshops for the vulnerable communities and local organisations, and self-help information to relieve first signs of stress and anxiety. The toll on mental health of Hong Kong society in this period of pandemic remains a concern, therefore, we are committed to keeping the self-help mental health website for the general public. The MSF team in Hong Kong continues exploring alternative ways to engage and support the communities here.
COVID-19 exacerbated some of the stressful events they face as domestic workers in Hong Kong, some have been stranded in Hong Kong alone, worried about the health and safety of their family in their home country, and face increased stress at work. From November 2020 to May 2021, MSF team conducted Community Care Training Programme for 66 community leaders of foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong. They were equipped with mental health knowledge and skills, such as psychological first aid, self-care, non-judgmental and active listening. Before and after the programme, they were assessed on their stress level associated with helping others and understanding of mental health. In general, they showed improvements in all stress indicators after completing the Training Programme. They felt less incompetent, lower stress and feeling of guilt, and better equipped to provide peer support within their community.
Meanwhile, the team has endeavoured to raise public awareness on mental health and promote recommended coping strategies through various channels. Nine local organisations and vulnerable members of the society received workshops on managing stress and anxiety. The team also tapped on social media to proactively offer the MSF mental health website that contains coping strategies to target groups and areas where stress levels were relatively high during the peak of the pandemic. MSF also worked with a Hong Kong illustrator to create a series of comics on family resilience to help families develop and grow strengths together in meeting life’s challenges especially with the new norms of ‘home learning’ and ‘work from home’.
The "How are you” mental health website, will remain available to the Hong Kong public to continue providing tips and tools for coping with stress and anxiety as we continue to face uncertainties. MSF is continuing its engagement with grassroots organisations so that our teams can understand, identify and adapt new ways to reach out to the vulnerable communities in the society.
MSF has formed an operations team in Hong Kong in January 2020 to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic by providing health education and mental health workshops to vulnerable groups. The team also collaborated with ImpactHK, a local NGO that supports the homeless, and conducted 51 free medical consultations and arranged temporary shelters for 35 vulnerable individuals from June to September 2020. In September 2020, the team re-focussed its work to mental wellbeing of vulnerable groups through collaborations with local organisations and public awareness.