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Learning an important lesson from the 2003 event of SARS, it is important not to overlook the community's mental well-being while we are fighting COVID-19. Being stuck in quarantine and disconnected with the outside world would result in loneliness, isolation and anxiety that can adversely affect people's mental well-being. We need to be sensitive and make an effort to those who have been disconnected in the times of COVID-19. Otherwise, a repeat of the events following SARS, which resulted in a sudden spike and uprising of suicide cases, would inevitably take place.
In view of this worrying phenomenon, with the help of the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust COVID-19 Emergency Fund, Me+box@ Home is introduced as an online program that aims to address students' loneliness, anxiety and sleep hygiene/healthy life during this critical period.
Keeping a Routine and Staying Connected is Vital
During the school suspension, students stayed at home at all time without social interaction, resulting in the feeling of loneliness and disrupted sleep-wake patterns. Remaining to be connected with others is important to reduce one's anxiety. There has been research indicating that students with an irregular bedtime schedule would experience poor sleep quality, which in turn deteriorates one's mental state and ability (Kang & Chen, 2009). Hence, keeping a normal routine and social connections is especially crucial during this disconnected period.
Stress Experienced by Students
Facing the unpredictable class resume time due to the early outbreak of COVID-19, some students, especially DSE and university students experienced stress as they were worried about their academic performance. According to a survey done on 25th February 2020, a 4.25 score out of 5 was recorded when secondary school students were asked if they were feeling anxious. It was deemed that timely intervention was necessary to release students’ anxiety, as long-term anxiety can cause the brain to release stress hormones on a regular basis, impacting the emotional health of all.
Three Tiers And Four Stages Of The Online Intervention Program
Tier 1: De-stress video clips (addressing loneliness/healthy life)
These video clips help raise youth awareness about stress and their emotional situation. If needed, they can sign up Tier 2 services for further relaxation programs.
Tier 2: Mindfulness online workshop with box set (reducing stress/anxiety and enhancing mental well-being)
A box set, which includes art materials, de-stress materials, good sleep tips and sleep-aid tools, is sent to the target before the workshop. Such delivery provides a closer connection and a form of care to the audience. Youths can sign up at scheduled online workshops and experience the mindful journey with social workers.
Tier 3: Individual follow-up (addressing youth unique need and difficulty)
Youths still facing individual and emotional difficulty identified in Tier 1 and Tier 2 would receive individual consultation and counselling.
Pastel Nagomi Art
Time out bottle
With the Me+box@ Home initiative, we have produced 10 video clips, providing 70 online sessions serving around 1,300 youths around Hong Kong. Me+box@ Home will continue to develop and leverage other youth mental health after the project period hoping to benefit the youth of Hong Kong in the long run.