Besides their lipsticks, Hong Kong women should carry a few other items in their handbags to keep negativity at bay. Clinical psychologist Annie Ho Nim-chee says women could benefit from some handy treats or gadgets in their purse: a bar of chocolate or a tea bag for a quick snack, hand cream for massage during work breaks, smartphones with short videos or relaxing music, or an hourglass that reminds them to meditate.
"Hong Kong women are well educated with a global perspective and wide social network," Ho says. "But they don't really know how to keep themselves mentally healthy."
Women, especially those between 35 and 44 years old, are likely to suffer from psychological problems because there are more risk factors that work against them.
Based on her decade-long experience as a clinical psychologist, Ho points out some of the problems they struggle with. Women from low- income families have to shoulder a heavier economic burden while middle- class mothers worry about finding suitable domestic helpers to look after their precious little ones when they leave for work.
Summer is a high-risk period.
Working mothers have to strike a balance between work and family by arranging extracurricular activities for their kids. If their children are entering Primary One or Secondary One in the coming school year, they worry about the youngsters' chances of being accepted by the school of their choice. "Multiple stresses can trigger a slew of mental disorders," Ho warns. <p>Major depression is a global problem and Hong Kong is not immune to it. According to the Hong Kong Mental Morbidity Survey 2010-13, about one in six Hongkongers (14.5 percent) suffers from anxiety and depression.
The prevalence of depression in females (2.1 percent) is three times higher than in males (0.7 percent).
Middle-aged women are the most vulnerable. Based on projections from the latest population figures, about 700,000 middle-aged women in Hong Kong are at risk.
May Miao Yin-king, a psychiatrist, recommends that women consult their doctors if they get depressed for two consecutive weeks.
Symptoms include loss of interest in hobbies, fatigue and lack of energy, insomnia or excessive sleeping, lack of motivation, feeling of worthlessness or excessive guilt, difficulty in concentrating and significant weight loss or gain.
According to Miao, hormonal changes make middle-aged women more prone to depression. They also have a higher risk of developing chronic diseases such as cancer or diabetes. "Depression can be treated successfully with medication and psychotherapy," she says.
Over the years, antidepressants have undergone many "generational" changes, and desvenlafaxine is one of the latest treatments known for its efficacy and safety.
Clinical trials show that it reduces the relapse rate and improves the well- being of patients because it has lighter side effects.
Desvenlafaxine also minimizes drug-to-drug interaction, a feature especially helpful for patients suffering from other chronic ailments.
But prevention is better than cure and recognizing the importance of mental health is essential.
Ho lists some factors that stand in the way of Hong Kong women's mental well-being.
The first is distraction, since Hong Kong women have too many roles to play and things to do at work, for their family and in social circles. They have little time for themselves.
The second is superficial knowledge. Well-educated women may think they know enough psychology but having tonnes of knowledge may actually give them the illusion that everything is just fine.
The third is a three-minute danger relief phenomenon. Local women will only seek help when they get overtaken by certain symptoms such as insomnia, self-destructive thoughts and behavior, or uncontrollable temper. Then they quit treatment once their condition improves a bit, leaving the window of relapse wide open.
And last but not least is impatience. They tend to see emotional counseling as an emergency call and demand immediate relief. If the situation does not turn around as quickly as they expect, they get frustrated and lose patience.
"Mental health is built on a long period of daily effort," Ho says. "Maintaining a healthy lifestyle such as engaging in hobbies is crucial. More importantly, they have to adopt an open and positive attitude toward depression and seek advice when needed."