ABSTRACT

The number of individuals suffering from mental illness who are living with family members in Hong Kong is unknown. In China, Phillips, Xiong, & Zhao (1990) estimate that more than 90 percent of such individuals live with their family members. This is a realistic estimation because of the scarcity of community residential facilities for people with mental illness in China. In the United States, Hatfield and Lefley (1987) suggest that the number is about 20 to 65 percent. Since young adults in the United States tend to leave home early and live independently, Hatfield and Lefley’s estimation is credible. In present-day Hong Kong it can be estimated that the number of individuals with chronic mental illness who are living with families is about 80 to 90 percent. This rough calculation is based on subtracting the number of persons with severe mental illness living in different residential facilities from the total estimated population of individuals with severe mental illness as stated in the Hong Kong Rehabilitation Programme Plan Review (Health and Welfare Bureau, 1999). This figure deserves attention because many studies have revealed that family members who live and care for relatives suffering from serious mental illness experience a high level of stress and poor mental health (Noh & Turner, 1987; Wong, 2000). Such family members often do not have the necessary caring and management skills to handle relatives with mental illness. This is particularly relevant for families in Hong Kong because of the lack of social services for caregivers. Very few government-subsidized family resource centers and selffunded family organizations are available for family members in Hong Kong. Indeed, many family caregivers do not receive any services from the community in Hong Kong (Wong, Pui, Pearson, & Chiu, 2003).