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係15th October 07 果日GA

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    You're not alone

    Pressure from study and family can drive us over the edge, but seek help early, writes Miranda Yeung

    It started with extremely elevated moods, an inability to concentrate and progressed to hallucinations. Later, Ah Yi (not her real name) withdrew from all of her friends, hid in her bedroom except when she went to school and had recurring thoughts of death.

    "The voices in my head told me that I should be dead. My moods changed dramatically and sometimes I would suddenly be so depressed that I cried in class.

    "My school work suffered dramatically."

    Psychosis struck 22-year-old Ah Yi without warning three years ago.

    Noticing her strange behaviour, her friends and teachers informed the school social worker who referred Ah Yi to a mental health professional.

    But the decision to seek help led to an argument with her family.

    "My parents strongly objected it. They thought only crazy people went to psychiatrists. So I secretly went to a clinic, accompanied by my friends and a social worker," says Ah Yi.

    With medication and clinical therapy, the hallucinations stopped in two months. But it took Ah Yi 18 months to fully recover and lead a normal life.

    Recent government statistics showed an alarming 40 per cent increase in the number of teenagers found to be suffering mental illness over the past six years.

    A total of 10,386 people under the age of 19 have undergone treatment for various illnesses, including depression, psychosis, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and suicidal thoughts.

    While depression and other mental illnesses affect adults and adolescents in roughly equal numbers, psychosis is most likely to hit young people aged between 15 and 25, according to May Lam, associate consultant in the department of psychiatry at Tai Po Hospital.

    "Delusions, hallucinations and disorganised speech are common symptoms of psychosis. Sufferers become paranoid, suspicious and feel they are being watched all the time. They withdraw into their own worlds," explains Dr Lam.

    "If not treated at an early stage, there's a high chance of problems deteriorating into serious illnesses, such as schizophrenia."

    On average there are 700 new cases of teenage psychosis every year, but the good news is 80 per cent of them recover substantially within six months.

    While the causes of psychosis are still unclear, psychiatrists say that drug abuse, genetic factors and social pressure all play a role.

    Social workers believe that the actual number of teenagers suffering from mental disorders may be higher than government statistics.

    The Hong Kong Council of Social Service interviewed 1,548 young people from 85 youth centres and schools who displayed signs of mental disorders, such as depression, mood swings and hallucinations.

    About 10 per cent of them refused to seek medical help because they were afraid to be labelled as mentally disturbed or could not accept the fact that they may be mentally ill.

    Ah Yi, who now works in the social service sector, urges young people to pay attention to their friends if they display unusual behaviour.

    "They [people suffering mental illness] are not always aware that they are behaving abnormally, but people around them should notice.

    "My close friends were the first to notice the dramatic changes in my behaviour. They even accompanied me to therapy. They played an important role in my recovery."

    Source(s): Wisenews
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