Mind HK: The importance of giving unspeakable suffering an accurate voice
Mind HK held its Media Awards 2019 ceremony at the Club on January 14, an event postponed from November due to protest activity. The awards, in their second year, were launched to “celebrate the best portrayals of mental health in the media”. Sue Brattle reports.
You could hear a pin drop as speakers told their personal stories to a packed Main Dining Room at the Mind HK Media Awards 2019 ceremony. The authentic voices of people either suffering from mental health issues, or from watching a loved one suffer, were almost unbearable to hear. But such stories, and the accurate telling of them, were the reason so many people had gathered at the Club.
Dr Hannah Reidy, CEO of Mind HK, said: “The stigma here is huge; we found that 60 per cent of people we asked believe it is easy to tell mental health sufferers apart from the population.”
Dr Reidy had good news and bad news. Mind HK has trained more than 2,000 people in Hong Kong in mental health awareness, but people diagnosed with a mental health illness are waiting up to three years for a follow-up appointment with a professional.
The 2019 awards attracted more than 100 submissions, and 13 judges weighed each entry against three key criteria: it challenged perceptions of mental health; it was well-crafted and responsibly produced; and its reach and impact.
The awards spanned print, digital and broadcast in both English-language and Chinese media and covered the 12-month period from July 2018 to June 2019. The judging panel included Chris Yeung, chair of the Hong Kong Journalists Association, Candice Ling, clinical psychologist at New Life Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association, and Paul Yip, director of the Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention.
The English-language Journalist Award went to FCC member Kate Whitehead, for Back from the Brink and Playing with Fire published in the South China Morning Post. Kate said later: “I was raised in Hong Kong. As a 17-year-old student at German Swiss International School, I lost my best friend to suicide. In those days, there was little understanding about mental health issues or support for young people. According to the World Health Organisation, one in four people will be affected by a mental health issue at some point in their lives. This club has about 2,500 members, which means that roughly 625 members will experience a mental health issue at some point in their lives. If that isn’t you, then it’s more than likely to be someone close to you.
“I’d like to give a big shout out to the editors who commission the journalists. So, a special thanks to the SCMP’s health editor Cathy Hilborn Feng, who allows journalists such as myself and fellow Club member Nan-Hie In to write these stories.”
During the evening, hosted by FCC Vice-President Eric Wishart, actress, singer-songwriter and mental health activist Lesley Chiang spoke movingly of her battle with severe depression, anxiety and panic attacks. Chiang, who two weeks later announced her marriage to engineer Pak-ho, said that after breaking up with her previous boyfriend “every single day my brain told me I was a burden”. She said: “When you are depressed you are not your own person. So I named my depression ‘Borat’.”
FCC member and Mind HK board member Olivia Parker related the deeply personal tragedy of her late boyfriend, underlining the importance of sensitive and informed reporting around mental health.