Suicide prevention group the Samaritan Befrienders Hong Kong (SBHK) has received more than 270 calls for help in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic since the fifth and worst wave of infections began in January. The NGO chief said the “uncertainty” surrounding the city’s anti-epidemic policies has “made people anxious.”

SBHK told HKFP on Thursday that 272 Hongkongers had reached out for assistance between January and February, citing discontent with the government’s handling of the pandemic, as well as emotional distress triggered by the outbreak and its impact on their daily lives and work.

Elderly patients waiting at the Caritas Medical Centre in Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong during the fifth-wave Covid-19 outbreak. File photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Some cases pointed to the implementation of gathering restrictions, compulsory testing orders and vaccination arrangements, the organisation said.

Among those appealing for help, 53 – or close to 20 per cent – were aged 60 or above. The figure was revealed days after two elderly Covid-19 patients committed suicide on Tuesday.

According to the police, a 79-year-old woman was found dead in the early hours on Tuesday at a public toilet in Kwai Chung. Sources told local media that Leung and some of her family members tested positive for Covid-19 a few days ago. The police system also showed a 76-year-old man fell from a building in Tsuen Wan on Tuesday and was later pronounced dead in Yan Chai Hospital. The man was a chronic patient who recently came down with Covid-19, local media reported.

If you are experiencing negative feelings, please call: The Samaritans 2896 0000 (24-hour, multilingual), Suicide Prevention Centre 2382 0000 or the Social Welfare Department 2343 2255. The Hong Kong Society of Counselling and Psychology provides a WhatsApp hotline in English and Chinese: 6218 1084. See also: HKFP’s comprehensive guide to mental health services in Hong Kong.

Clarence Tsang, executive director of SBHK, said seniors in Hong Kong experienced a lot of psychological stress during the pandemic as they had fewer channels to obtain information on the latest developments. Many were concerned about getting infected, while others were scared of undergoing quarantine, he said.

“They mostly learn about the pandemic from hearsay, and sometimes the information is not very accurate. To a certain extent, the situation was exaggerated, which subjected them to a lot emotional stress,” the NGO chief said.

People should keep their elders updated on the Covid-19 situation, Tsang said, as well as show support and care. The elderly should also contact their family members and friends more often, and go out for walks instead of “locking themselves up at home” if possible.

Elderly in a park in Hong Kong. File photo: GovHK.

The head of the suicide prevention group also urged the government to be “clear” about their proposed measures for tackling Covid-19, such as the compulsory universal testing scheme, as any changes or “contradictions” may put a strain on the public, he said.

“The longer you stall, the more distressing it is for the citizens… uncertainty is usually what makes people anxious,” Tsang said.

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Kelly Ho

Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.