The “Heartwarming Cafe” project, organized by the Hypnotherapy and Counselling Association of Asia, has 26 partner cafes and restaurants in Hong Kong who offer free food, drink, and counseling to those suffering from stress or any mental-health related issue. It hopes to hold out a helping hand and allow people to open up about their mental health struggles.
The project specifically aims to target early intervention in mental illnesses and it does that by providing a free and accessible avenue for people to seek guidance. A common problem with managing mental health issues is being able to detect them early enough, especially in Asia where the taboo against mental health issues remains quite strong. People are either disincentivized to talk about their struggles, too shy to do so or simply cannot afford private help.
Franky Lam, the initiator of the project, intends to fill that gap in Hong Kong’s mental healthcare system. He shares with South China Morning Post: “We have found that many mental problems can be solved by early intervention. But Asian people are relatively introverted. Many, especially men, are hesitant to talk about their problems or can’t find people to talk to.”
Now, those struggling have the option of the Heartwarming Cafe. Under this initiative, anyone 18 years old and above “suffering from stress from work, relationship, family, education or other issues” would only have to register for a slot either online or by phone. A talk with a counselor would then be booked for 90 minutes, complete with a free meal and drink. The counselor would advise the person on what steps should be taken next and if they would need further professional help.
A number of their volunteers have professional backgrounds in psychology while the rest are being trained. The project extended the opportunity for volunteers without experience in hopes of raising public awareness and equipping more people to offer appropriate help.
Should you ever need help or feel the need to talk to someone, please check out our Mental Health Directory.
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