Envision is a series designed to bring hope to Hongkongers amid the uncertainty and isolation of the pandemic. Each week, we publish letters of encouragement and messages of positivity from the city’s most influential leaders in the realms of art, culture, business and sport. These deeply personal, first-person accounts from the community can be read as love letters to Hong Kong. In these trying times, the series inspires and serves as a reminder that we’re all in this together, and that we will bounce back stronger than ever.
In any sport, the amount of physical work involved to be great, especially on an international level, is tremendous. But the required mental fortitude is often overlooked when it comes to appraising performance. “Sport is 90 per cent mental and 10 per cent physical,” goes the famous quote, originally attributed to baseball pro Yogi Berra. The field of sport psychology and the conversation around mental health in sport have been brought increasingly into the spotlight, thanks to prominent athletes like Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka and Michael Phelps speaking about the importance of prioritising mental wellbeing, giving exposure to a topic once considered taboo.
Closer to home, Olympic swimmer Yvette Kong is doing her part to get people taking mental health as a whole, but especially in sport, more seriously. After representing Hong Kong at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, Kong knows first-hand the extreme pressure athletes endure.
Her experience as an athlete, combined with her degree in cognitive science from the University of California, Berkeley, fuelled the 29-year-old’s dedication to mental health. She is a board member of Mind Hong Kong and has given presentations for Tedx Hong Kong and the University of Hong Kong on the subject.
Kong says the situation in Hong Kong is particularly dire, intensified by the most recent wave of the pandemic. She cites a survey by Mind Hong Kong this year, which found over 60 per cent of adults aged 25 to 34 reported poor mental health. “Can you imagine what our growth opportunity would be if we saw recent challenges as a leap towards healthier awareness? Can [taking care of our] mental health be a huge source of our city’s untapped potential?” Kong asks.
Read her diary entry below about why she feels Hong Kong must prioritise mental wellbeing, and why she is optimistic that the city will be changed for the better post-pandemic.