Views of Hong Kong Chinese primary care attenders on psychological distress: causes, management and recovery

Sun, K.Sing.; Lam, T.Pong.; Lam, K.Fai.; Lo, T.Lam.; Chao, D.Vai.Kiong.; Lam, E.Wing.Wo.; Chan, H.Yan.

Family Practice 36(1): 84-90


ISSN/ISBN: 0263-2136
PMID: 30351425
DOI: 10.1093/fampra/cmy102
Accession: 065969550

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Most of the previous studies of help seeking for psychological distress were conducted in Western countries. Chinese studies have had a stronger emphasis on psychosis. This study aims to understand how Hong Kong Chinese primary care attenders see psychological distress, including its causes, management approaches and recovery, and whether their views are different from Western views. Nine focus groups and six individual interviews were conducted in Hong Kong among Chinese primary care attenders with/without known distress, patients' significant others and the general public, and a questionnaire survey was conducted with 1626 primary care attenders recruited from 13 private clinics and 6 public clinics. More survey respondents agreed with psychological counselling (95.3%) than drugs (69.0%) to relieve psychological distress. Despite the belief in self-resilience (77.7%), only 34.8% respondents agreed that psychological distress could get better without professional help. Respondents with younger ages, better education and higher incomes tended to have stronger trust in counselling and self-resilience than drugs. Qualitative interviews revealed that although participants regarded psychological distress as a common problem in modern societies, distressed patients might be seen as being weak and troublesome. Some distressed patients found their recovery process painful because of discouragement from family and personnel at their workplace. Hong Kong Chinese patients' views of the causes and management approaches of psychological distress are similar to Western findings. However, help seeking and recovery are of greater concern in a Chinese context where patients may receive limited empathy for their conditions of psychological distress.