A Humble beginning : My ESD experience

Dr. Henry Leung
(English version only)

Having learnt recently of another successful launch of Mental and Behavioral Health, UNESCO Hong Kong, I reflect with some fondness on our humble beginning. It started in 2009 after a presentation on mental health to the Hong Kong Rotary Club. The concept of doing a public health series as part of the HKESD was born out of a discussion between Mitzi Leung, David Lorimer and myself. With some naivety David Lorimer and I began to flush out what was required to educate secondary students on the importance of mental health and the malignancy of the stigma that goes with mental illness. David, through his ingenious promotional antics including recruiting live bands literally off the street, was able to engage what I think must have been a rather bewildered audience.

Over 300 students from 5 secondary schools enrolled. That also happened to be the first year that secondary schools were required to add a liberal studies component to the curriculum. Through the voluntary enthusiastic participation of many individuals, including the principals, teachers attached to the mental health teams, and mentors, we were able to put together workshops on mental illness, leadership, teamwork, animation and storytelling. Students had opportunities to visit Castle Peak Hospital and the New Life Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association to speak with individuals with mental illness, a first experience for the vast majority. Students were expected to produce a report on what they had learnt about mental illness in a format that would appeal to other young people.

Over twenty teams participated in an open competition. True to form, the students totally surprised us as they presented their work in plays, videos, songs, and newsletters. The judges were uniformly impressed and feedback from the student participants was overwhelmingly positive. My enduring memory was the virtues displayed by the students including their energy, creativity, forthrightness, and problem solving skills, much the same virtues required in the ongoing fight against the stigma of mental illness.

I am thrilled that UNESCO Hong Kong and Smart Health and Wellness have been able to sustain this collaborative effort to raise awareness of mental illness among secondary students.Congratulations to Mitzi Leung, Angela Cheung of UNESCO Hong Kong and Dr Howard To of Smart Health and Wellness for your continuing support and interest in the health of young people.


Dr Henry Leung