At the Hong Kong College of Technology, there is a room for rest where no smartphones are allowed. Once inside, you will find a space capsule, a small sofa and a comfortable corner carpeted in green. Whenever students feel sleepy and tired, the space welcomes them in to recharge with a nap, unbind knotted nerves and rediscover calm.
"I want young people to know that this is not just a space for rest, but they can also come here if they’re feeling down or lonely,” Ivy Yau, a social worker with Hong Kong Playground Association, said. “I want them to also pay attention to their mental health. I want to help them get more calm and peaceful sleep.”
Ivy has been involved in youth work for 20 years. A few years ago, she observed that emotional problems in young people were becoming an increasingly serious issue, with some choosing to take their lives in the worst cases. She thought hard about how she could serve the young better.
In 2017, she decided to take a proper break from her job and went on a 10-week sabbatical through the InnoPower@JC: Fellowship for Teachers and Social Workers programme. For eight weeks, she received innovation training in Hong Kong with fellow social workers. In the other two weeks, she travelled to the UK and Germany for a professional exchange to seek inspiration from local youth projects and deepen her learnings.
Released from the demands of her job, Ivy had more time and space to think and develop her own ideas. The more research she read, the more she became aware of the link between sleep and mental health. After her return to Hong Kong, she started an innovative service project called “InnoPower@JC: Sleeping Hub ” with the support of The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust, setting up ‘sleep hubs’ in four youth centres, Hong Kong Baptist University and the Hong Kong College of Technology.
At the sleep hubs, Ivy met many young people who were suffering from insomnia and fatigue. Some of them did not consider that to be a problem initially but would come to find a host of hidden emotional issues after learning more about their condition.
Now every sleep hub has the added benefit of support from clinical psychologists and psychiatrists. With further funding from The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust, the Sleeping Hub project has expanded into LevelMind@JC, a collaboration with six NGOs to promote youth mental health.
More and more young people have been visiting the hubs for the activities on offer as well as to seek help. "We've really filled a service gap," Ivy said, adding that she will continue to explore new ways to help young people achieve better sleep.
Did you know?
According to research by the Hong Kong Playground Association, 40-50% of young people suffer from short-term or chronic insomnia. Social workers say that three months of poor sleep effectively mean insomnia. Over time, this can lead to chronic illnesses and poor health. Early attention to insomnia, coupled with action to raise sleep quality, can improve physical well-being and prevent mental health issues.