Hong Kong’s Teens Fight with Society
By Annie Sweeney
As children get older fears change and get replaced, for the teenagers of Hong Kong that fear of the dark or of a clown has been exchanged for the fear of failure, a fear that is now life-threatening. In a city that according to the world population review is 1,000 km² city, and carrying a population of 7 million progressing forward at lightning speed, competition is fierce. With teenagers taking the force of it, as reported by the South China Morning Post there being over 27 teenager suicides in 2017, therefore this is a drastic issue that needs to come to light. As the similarities between Hong Kong and Singapore are too obvious that we have to be aware of the issue in our city.
“Starting middle school, was definitely when I started to feel a huge pressure to succeed academically and the idea that if I didn’t get the best I wouldn’t be able to succeed further in life was very prominent. It scared me a lot,” said Michael Tas, a student at an international school in Hong Kong.
With the pressure and bar so high to achieve the best, depression and even suicide has become an enormous issue in children as young as 11. The constant focus on academic achievement allows Hong Kong to be have one of the highest academic standards in the world. However also come with drastic consequences, with a study from the South China Morning Post showing that 51% of students showed signs of having major depression. So why? Why is teen depression and mental health issues on the rise in Hong Kong?
Of course, the constant pressure that is forced onto children to achieve highly academically is a huge factor. Additionally, what comes with that is the continuous tutoring and homework, but also by being a teenager many still want to socialise and do activities. Leading many do not have much time to relax.
“Depending on the time of year, if there’s a lot of tests, I will go to around four different tutors, for maths, science, French and Chinese. I also do tennis 3-4 times a week… yes, sometimes [ I go] before or after tutor” said Tomas Choukroun, a student studying at the Canadian International school.
This lack of downtime means that many don’t have time to mentally repose themselves which leads to a lot of tennagers constantly being physically and mentally worn out. A feature that many teenagers in Singapore also suffer with. This lack of rest and the mental exhaustion contributes profoundly to the stress of the pupils in Hong Kong. As shown in a report from the American Psychological Association, sleep and rest directly affect memory mood and judgment, which without correct adjustment and rest contributes to this cycle of depression and stress.
This is feature that many teenagers in Singapore also suffer with. T
Depression and other mental illnesses are treated as a taboo in Hong Kong with many finding it hard to talk about emotions and feelings openly.
“ Towards the grade nine, I went through a very difficult phase of feeling very consumed by everything that was going on around me. It ended with me having issues with self-harm.” a student reported.
They went on to say that they ended up self-harming for four months before seeking help, and confession toward their parents. The student said this was out of fear of being looked at as weak. When teenagers are left feeling secluded from their support groups, it results in the manifestation of their depression and feelings of isolation. Leading many unable to carry on.
With mental illness and suicide on the rise in Hong Kong. It needs to be seen that in living in Singapore, a small, busy metropolitan, sharing the similar features and values as Hong Kong. It can very easy for a teenagers to fall into the same problems as those in Hong Kong.
The United World College counselor Marie Anne stated “By 2020 it will be the leading illness in the world WHO of the UN – adolescents and depression worldwide – increasing all around the world”
This shows that it is important to ask what can we do to prevent this tragic situation happening in our schools. How can we balance and support our teenagers knowing the importance of academics but also the importance of mental health?