As a high school student in Hong Kong, the pressures on our heart and mind are heavy and numerous: you must succeed academically, but not exceedingly better than your peers; you must be outgoing and friendly and go out for dinners with friends, but still make time for schoolwork; you must be healthy, fit and physically active, but not show up to school at 8 am looking like a zombie. This backwards-and-forwards, push-and-pull, has put a great mental strain on me, and is something I am still struggling with. I mixed up the very normal exam stress that all students face with the mind-numbingly, nausea-inducing fear of failure I felt. I began to struggle with insomnia, and couldn’t sleep earlier than 1 am even if I wanted to. At one point, my teacher asked me to come off stage because my hands were shaking uncontrollably, although I had never had a problem with public speaking.
I was lucky enough to have had a great support network – my family, who I always was able to speak to when I wanted to, and even when I didn’t want to, but needed to. There needs to be a greater addressing of mental health amongst high school students in Hong Kong, and not at face value – although much progress has been made with regards to acknowledging this, there is still a lot of stigma and shame surrounding the treatment of mental health issues. As high school students, we need to realise that mental health is not something that can be solved instantly – it is the hidden, perseverant kind that most needs our support, but often most sorely lacks it. I am grateful and lucky to have had my own support network – identifying who I could speak to, whether it was my mom or my closest teachers, was a crucial step for me. Everything is still a work in progress, and will probably remain one. We can always do better in terms of self care, but I am sure we can make great strides towards it.