Discrimination and Mental Health – A Guide for Young People


Hong Kong is a very multicultural city with a melting pot of cultures. In the last 10 years, the number of non-Chinese ethnic people living in the city has increased by over 70%.

Did you know that ethnic minorities constitute 8% of Hong Kong’s population?

There are over half a million ethnic minorities living in Hong Kong.

72.2% of ethnic minorities aged 14 and below and 51% of ethnic minorities aged 15-24 were born in Hong Kong.

It’s important to understand that not everyone shares the same views and upbringing. What we see in the news, movies, social media, or books may present a very narrow or one-sided view of specific cultures. Diversity can help us work more productively in teams and foster creativity as there are lots of positive things we can learn from each other.

Learning about other cultures helps us understand different perspectives within our communities. It helps us challenge harmful stereotypes and personal biases about different groups. We can grow in understanding and learn to respect other “ways of being” that are not necessarily our own.

Unfortunately, not everyone fully understands and supports cultural diversity. Discrimination, racism, and stigma are still huge issues we face. This can take a toll on our mental health and the wellbeing of those around us.

What is discrimination?


Discrimination is unfavourable treatment based on underlying prejudice. It is referred to as unfair treatment due to a person’s identity, which can include the following:

  • Age 
  • Sex 
  • Race
  • Gender
  • Colour
  • Creed 
  • Religion 
  • Ethnicity 
  • Physical disability 
  • Family background
  • Ancestry 
  • Gender identity
  • Political belief
  • Place of origin 
  • Mental illness 
  • Mental disability 
  • Nationality 
  • Family status 
  • Social status 
  • Citizenship 
  • Linguistic background 
  • Sexual orientation 
  • Monetary status 
  • Education level 

Stigma is the negative stereotype and discrimination is the behaviour that results from this negative stereotype.

How does discrimination effect MENTAL HEALTH?

Impact of negative public attitudes

  • Public misconceptions and increase in fear 
  • Justification of stereotypes 
  • Denial of jobs, friendships, relationships 
  • Loss of self-esteem, confidence 
  • Feeling weak 
  • Increase in stress levels 
  • Social exclusion and isolation 
  • Unwilling to seek help or speak to friends/family about problems 
  • Remains one of the greatest barriers to a satisfactory life

The lives of people with mental health conditions are often embedded by stigma as well as discrimination.

Stigma is a reality for many people with a mental illness, and they report that how others judge them is one of their greatest barriers to a complete and satisfying life.

Is discrimination a problem in Hong Kong?

What are some challenges ethnic minorities face in HK?

  • Language barriers
  • Lack of career opportunities
  • Cultural differences
  • A recent survey conducted by local universities revealed that 6 in 10 Hongkongers believe there is a prejudice against these ethnic minorities.
  • Between 2013-2018, the Equal Opportunities Commission received a total of 397 complaints lodged under the Race Discrimination Ordinance.
  • A study by the World Values Survey Association has shown that many Hongkongers would not want to live next to people of a different race.

Racial stereotypes are widespread in Hong Kong. They may be used in to discriminate in a range of areas, like law enforcement, renting accommodation, school admissions and opportunities for employment.

Due to discrimination, many ethnic minority youth feel that they are negatively perceived by the wider community. This may lead to over racism or micro-aggressions.

A study from the Zubin Foundation has found that due to discrimination and negative perceptions of ethnic minorities, many youth have felt “invisible”. For example, ethnic minorities are under-represented in advertisements and pop culture in Hong Kong. When they are featured, it is often in sources like the news where they may be portrayed as “criminals”.

“When I open the school doors in the morning, I would see some unpleasant faces. I guess some parents don ’t feel comfortable having me teach their kids.”

Lebo Mhlongo, a South African kindergarten teacher in HK, faces racism on a daily basis


  • South China Morning Post, “Is Hong Kong racist? Prejudice against ethnic minorities, especially Africans, undermines city’s claim to be truly international”, 21/7/2018 
  • South China Morning Post, “Racial discrimination is still an issue in HK”, 13/12/2019 
  • Zubin Foundation, “The Status of Ethnic Minorities in Hong Kong”, 2015

Where to Get More Support

A List of Community Resources

Government Departments: 

Support Service Centres for Ethnic Minorities – a list by the Race Relations Unit of the Home Affairs Department. 

Integrated Children and Youth Services Centres – provide social work intervention for children and youth 6-24. 

Integrated Community Centres for Mental Wellness – provide community support, social rehabilitation services, clinical assessment and treatment for those aged 15 or above and their family members or carers.

Government-funded Non-Profit Making Organizations (NPOs):

Christian Action SHINE Centre: Self-help and Mutual-help Groups for ethnic minorities who encounter social and economic problems. 

Hong Kong Christian Service CHEER Centre: Counselling, guidance and referral services are provided by registered social workers for all ethnic minorities in Hong Kong and all organisations serving ethnic minorities, to facilitate their swift settlement in Hong Kong. 

Hong Kong Community Network LINK Centre: Registered social workers offer counselling or referral to appropriate government department or agencies. Specially trained ethnic minority staff offer translation services. 

International Social Service: Counselling and Guidance services for ethnic minorities with HKID cards. 

New Home Association HOME Centre: Individual and mutual support for all ethnic minorities in Hong Kong. 

Yuen Long Town Hall Support Service Centre for Ethnic Minorities: Provides counselling and referral service to pertinent organizations, offers emotional support, and gives sessions on problem-solving and stress management skills for Hong Kong ethnic minority residents aged 9-27.

The Zubin Foundation – Ethnic Minority Well-being Centre (EMWC) 

The EMWC serves those in the ethnic minority community who would like to talk to a counsellor about their mental well-being. All counsellors are able to speak English plus Hindi/ Urdu. Counselling service is only available for individuals aged 16 or above. If you have not reached 18 yet, you are required to get your parents’ consent in order to receive our counselling service.

  • Address: 5/F, Unit F-J, Block 2, Kwai Tak Industrial Centre, 15-33 Kwai Tak Street, Kwai Chung, Hong Kong 
  • Contact number: 9682 3100 (for enquiries on EMWC and making appointments) / 2540 9588 (general enquiries on The Zubin Foundation) 
  • Email:

Yang Memorial Methodist Social Service – Yau Tsim Mong Family Education and Support Centre

Mutual help groups, individual and family counselling are provided for all ethnic minorities in Hong Kong.

  • Address: 5/F, 396 Shanghai Street, Yaumatei, Kowloon 
  • Contact number: 2781 2921/ 6821 9115/ 6821 9114 
  • Email:

Christian Action (Woo Sung Street Centre)

Self help and mutual help groups for ethnic minorities who encounter social and economic problems.

  • Address: 4/F., Lee Kong Commercial Building, 115 Woo Sung Street, Jordan, Kowloon 
  • Contact number: 3422 3820 
  • Email:

The Salvation Army Yau Ma Tei Integrated Service for Young People

Focuses on growth and counselling, to foster a sense of belonging to Hong Kong among the ethnic minority group and help them adapt to life in Hong Kong.

  • Address: 1/F Block 4, Prosperous Garden, 3 Public Square Street, Kowloon 
  • Contact number: 2770 8933 
  • Email:

Emergency support

If you are experiencing strong levels of distress or trauma which are interfering with your life, remember that you do not have to face it alone, and that help is available.

For emergency support, please contact the hotlines below:

Emergency hotline: 999

The Samaritans 24-hour hotline (Multilingual): (852) 2896 0000

Samaritan Befrienders Hong Kong 24-hour hotline (Cantonese only): (852) 2389 2222

Suicide Prevention Services 24-hour hotline (Cantonese only): (852) 2382 0000

OpenUp 24/7 online emotional support service (English/Chinese):

More support services can be found here:

More non-urgent support services can be found here: