Rates of anxiety and depression in young adults living in Honk Kong rose dramatically since 2015. One solution may be to incorporate meditation practices into students’ busy routines.
As reported in the Hong Kong Free Press, stress levels in the Hong Kong secondary school population have produced dramatic effects concerning mental health. One first year student, Mak Sze-Chai, at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) has found meditation to be her key to fighting the pressures she feels from society.
Sze-Chai was raised by her mother, Christine Cheung Sze-Kuen, after her parents divorced when she was one-year-old. The divorce left Sze-Chai feeling abandoned which led her to falling into depression and a harboring low self esteem as she got older. Chueng took her to a meditation camp at Plum Village in France in 2002 and soon she was able recognize joy in her life.
“I like to breathe in first, then scan over my body. Once you feel there is something uncomfortable inside, stop and check what it is,” Sze-Chai said.
Now both mother and daughter visit Plum Village on Lantau Island on Sundays for Day of Mindfulness, a day of meditation activities open to the public. As a meditation instructor for the Spiritual Education Project at CUHK, Cheung noticed that students were under intense pressure to measure up to their most successful peers, which has led to a fear of failure and acceptance.
A study by the Hong Kong Institute of Education, in 2015, determined that close to 60 percent of young adults between the ages of 18 to 24 suffered from anxiety or depression after the Umbrella Movement.
In an effort to address her students’ mental health, Chueng designed a 10 minute meditation session for the school assembly. During the session, students are guided to focus on their breathing and enjoy soothing music. It is a chance for students to slow down and reflect on their emotions in the moment.
In addition to the pressures of student competition, there is also a heavy influence on the young population of Hong Kong to excel as consumers. Pink Lee Wai-ki, founder of Light On, observed that the people of Hong Kong are content with the physical rewards of a materialistic society but turn to meditation for spiritual comfort. Wai-ki came to this understanding after she began critically questioning the purpose of her life seven years ago.
She left her job as a reporter to find answers through a backpacking adventure and on the way discovered the benefits of meditation. After returning to Hong Kong Lee organized meditation camps and yoga classes in order to pass on the vitality she found in practicing meditation.