(Butterfly Program, June 2021)
Our very first initiative, the Butterfly Program was created in 2016 to provide early assessment and interim treatment of children and young adults 21 or under with suspected mental health challenges. We work solely with low-income families who do not have the financial means to obtain medical or psychiatric services in the private health system, while waiting in the long queue to be treated under the public health system.
The program was created because children and young adults with suspected mental health problems have to wait more than a year for clinical assessment in Hong Kong’s public clinics. For those diagnosed with autism, attention deficit disorder or other mental health conditions, there is a further wait of nearly 18 months for treatment and, in many cases, the waiting time for public psychiatric outpatient services can be as long as three years. In younger children, those years can be critical, and treatment often comes too late.
Variety Hong Kong has recruited a network of psychiatrists to provide early assessment, consultation and treatment to qualifying children and young adults until they can be looked after by the public health services. We also provide support for the families and caregivers of those with mental health challenges.
And, finally, the Butterfly program also includes outreach to schools and community health organisations designed to de-stigmatize mental health issues and build a culture of inclusivity.
In the first five years of the program, we have been able to support over 1,500 patients and young people with much-needed medical services with many seeing improvements in their symptoms within three months.
That has led to 94% of those we help being satisfied or very satisfied with the Butterfly Program. We have also seen stress levels of affected families lowered, making a significant impact on their lives.
Variety Hong Kong has also held 13 events in collaboration with other NGOs, helping a further two thousand people including 1,200 students. We have also hosted more than 32 seminars, supporting 6,500 people including 4,000 students.
Our efforts in Community Education to promote mental health awareness, thereby increasing knowledge (and acceptance) of symptoms associated with the common mental illness, have been substantial. Over the 5 years, Variety has conducted over 100 of talks at schools and in community centres, targeting teachers, social workers and students. We have reached out to over 10,000 stakeholders. With better understanding of mental wellness, no student should be stigmatized as abnormal. This will help reduce school bullying.
A pilot Youth Ambassador Program was launched in 2020.
Through experiential learning and training, students develop an appreciative mindset for individual’s uniqueness, strengths and differences.
They are empowered to use creative ways to promote mental wellness and anti-stigmatization initiatives in the school environment.
No matter how old you are, what your background is or where you live,
you can help—and you can start right now.
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