Early Attempt for Child Mental Health Service Development in Hong Kong

By Fan, T. W. | Hong Kong Journal of Psychiatry, September 1993 | Go to article overview

Early Attempt for Child Mental Health Service Development in Hong Kong


Fan, T. W., Hong Kong Journal of Psychiatry


Although the first child psychiatric service in Hong Kong was said to be established in Yaumatei Psychiatric Centre on a part-time basis of 2 morning sessions per week in 1967 (Cheng, 1976), thoughts and attempt to develop child mental health services certainly went back earlier in time.

After Professor Yap Pao-meng [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] was appointed as government psychiatric specialist and Superintendent of the "Mental Hospital" in 1948, it was said that Professor Yap and tike Deputy Director of Medical & Health Services, Dr. Graham-Cumming, were already exchanging minutes about the desirability of having a child guidance service in Hong Kong since 1949.

In the summer of 1952, the idea of setting up some sorts of voluntary organization to study subjects concerning mental health was ignited among a group of elites from various professions such as psychiatrists, teachers, university lecturers, psychologists. By 9 December of the same year 1952, the 5 members of the Organising Committee, namely:

Dr. P.M. Yap, Superintendent of the Mental Hospital, Miss Marie Cements, Lecturer in Educational Psychology, HKU,

Dr. Irene Cheng, Senior Woman Education Officer, Education Department,

Mr. Donald Peterson, Senior Probation Officer, Social Welfare Office,

Dr. Lu Huei Chug, Assistant Principal, True Light Middle School,

had had 2 meetings and had decided that the first meeting of the "Mental Health Shady Group" was to be held on 23 January, 1953 with a lecture by Miss Clements, on the very topic of "Problem Children". This Study Group later evolved into the Mental Health Association of Hong Kong. Later the same year, Miss Clements gave another lecture on "Problems of Adolescence". Special attention to child & adolescent mental health issues and problems was quite understandable as many of die first members were teachers.

In June, 1953, some of the members of the Mental Health Study Group attended a WHO conference in Sydney on "Mental Health in Childhood". Probably stimulated by what they had seen and heard in the conference, they came to agree upon the necessity for a mental health and child guidance service in Hong Kong.

Since, as it was put, "the government representatives were unable, at the moment, to put forward any scheme involving Government financial support", suggestion was raised for the University of Hong Kong to establish a Child Guidance Demonstration Clinic staffed with a child psychiatrist supplied by the Medical Department, a psychiatric social worker by the Social Welfare Office and a psychologist by the University Department of Education. This project gained strength from discussions with visiting experts and later the promise of WHO funds.

In September, 1955, the University Child Guidance Centre was set up by the Department of Education, University Of Hong Kong. It offered assistance and later the Promise of WHO funds.

behaviour problems such as lying, petty thefts, day-dreaming, excessive dependence, inattentiveness and restlessness in class;

certain physical conditions such as enuresis, stammering and asthma;

delinquency;

placing children in schools or universities abroad or in Hong Kong;

vocational guidance;

remedial physical exercises.

The Professor of Education (Professor K.E. Priestley) and the Psychologist (Miss B.R. Wright) formed the clinical team, with assistance was available from the Government Psychiatrist (Dr. P.M. Yap) if need arose. The preliminary investigation included a detailed interview and discussion of the results of the examination with the parent.

All interviews were by appointment only with the normal fee for preliminary testing, case investigation and consultation set at $50. (At that time, more than half of the families of Hong Kong had a monthly income of less than $200--and all families were large. …

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