Real TALK is our series of articles from fellow survivors of sexual abuse / assault covering topics that might be helpful to you. What we aim for here isn’t perfection but some good practical advice based on real experiences here in Hong Kong. If you have suggestion to add, please email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
We often hear that accessing affordable mental health care in Hong Kong is difficult and that not everyone who wants it gets it! We also know that many services don’t list specifics about the type of treatment they offer or how to get it. We’re actively advocating for providers to specifically list trauma and sexual abuse so that people in need can more easily find the right help.
Here are some tips that might help you get started in the process!
How to access clinical psychology and psychiatry help in Hong Kong’s public health system
This process can take a while so it might be good to view it as a long-term strategy!
- Make an appointment with a GP at one of the Hospital Authority’s General Out-Patient Clinics (GOPC). The list of GOPCs is available here. Select a preferred location and call the listed phone number to make an appointment.
- At the appointment with the GP, let the GP know that you’re in need of psychiatric help. You could tell them that you are a survivor of abuse / assault, that you suffer from depression, etc. They will issue you a referral letter to the nearest / their associated public psychiatry out-patient facility (e.g. the nearest public hospital with an out-patient psychiatry clinic or a specialist out-patient clinic).
- You have to physically take the letter to the hospital / clinic to make an appointment with a psychiatrist. A nurse will have a chat with you to assess the urgency of your situation. Then you will be given an appointment slip with the date and time of your first appointment with the psychiatrist. For non-urgent cases, the wait can be ~12 months.
- At your appointment with the psychiatrist, they will assess your situation and depending on needs, may issue a referral to a clinical psychologist. If you get that, you have to physically take the letter to the relevant hospital / clinic to make an appointment with a clinical psychologist.
- You will be asked to complete a questionnaire to assess the urgency of your situation, and then will be issued an appointment slip with the date and time of your first appointment with the clinical psychologist. For non-urgent cases, the wait can be ~12 months.
What do I do while I wait?
Assistance in the private sector:
- Seek out private psychiatrist / clinical psychologist / counselling services – various resources, such as TALK’s therapy section, provide some very good information.
- If you have private insurance, they should be able to help you with a portion / all of your fees (depending on your plan). Be aware that some insurance plans requires a referral letter from a GP first – so make sure you save a copy of your GP referral letter (a photo on your phone is fine!) Also note that most insurance plans reimburse for only psychiatrist services, but not clinical psychology or counselling services.
- Clinical psychology / counselling at subsidised or reduced rates is also available at various organisations. It is also available at the Baptist Oi Kwan Social Service, which not many websites list perhaps because they aren’t well known in the expat community.
Time to Heal (website currently available in Chinese only but you might be able to contact them directly for assistance in English) is a collaboration between the Hong Kong Council of Social Service and the Division of Clinical Psychology of the Hong Kong Psychological Society. It offers a one-time reimbursement of up to HK$7000 for the use of clinical psychology or psychiatry services (including art therapy, music therapy etc).
To participate in the scheme, you will need to:
- Obtain a referral from a social worker (make an appointment with a social worker, they will chat with you and conduct an assessment, and they will submit the application on your behalf).
- Your application will be assessed and, if deemed appropriate, approved.
- Your fees paid towards eligible clinical psychology or psychiatry services after the date of approval will be reimbursable up to a maximum of HK$7000.
- Keep your receipts safe and once you hit the $7000 mark, send them to your social worker and they will process the reimbursement for you.
- You can be reimbursed HK$7000 max each for clinical psychology and psychiatry service. So if you use both types of services, in total you can be reimbursed HK$14000.
- This scheme currently lasts until Dec 31, 2021.
Where in the world am I gonna find a social worker?
There are many different ways to get in touch with a social worker, below is just the method the writer used:
You can call one of the Integrated Community Centres for Mental Wellness and tell them that you would like to see a social worker to participate in the Time to Heal scheme. They will then make an appointment for a social worker to meet with you.