They become lonely when they alone must negotiate the terms between patients and the healthcare system, often denying patients their wishes. Lastly, they become lonely when they are left without faith and without any medical solutions to patients’ and families’ suffering and pain.

We know of a young physician in Israel who feels her clinical practice distances her from the people she loves. We know of a Hong Kong-based clinician in his early 70s who has exhibited extreme social isolation and withdrawal after being infected with Covid-19 himself.

We know of other physicians who have even committed, or attempted to commit, suicide because of their loneliness, and potentially undiagnosed depression.

Healthcare professionals may indeed be the worst patients, particularly when it comes to loneliness. While caring for others is our job and calling, it may easily substitute self-care. The worse one feels about one’s personal life, the more enticing it is to focus on one’s patients as an escape.

This may create a vicious cycle where healthcare professionals become increasingly dependent on their career for personal well-being and sense of fulfilment. Furthermore, the more engaged we become in our clinical environment the harder it may become to disconnect from the medical world and reconnect with the non-medical world.

This may mean reduced resilience in coping with life challenges, and increased risk of burnout, loneliness and depression.

Medical schools should emphasise instilling resilience in addition to, or rather than, studiousness in students. Society should realise that in the post-Covid world, medicine is in crisis, and resilience is key.

The next time you see your doctor, tell them whether you are lonely, and ask whether they feel lonely as well.

Dr Zohar Lederman, Medical Ethics and Humanities Unit, LKS Medical Faculty, University of Hong Kong, and Dr Robert Yuen Kar-ngai, associate director, Bioethics Resource Centre, Holy Spirit Seminary College

If you have suicidal thoughts or know someone who is experiencing them, help is available. In Hong Kong, dial +852 2896 0000 for The Samaritans or +852 2382 0000 for Suicide Prevention Services.
In the US, call or text 988 or chat at 988lifeline.org for the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. For a list of other nations’ helplines, see this page.

Disappearance of small businesses a hit to social fabric

I refer to the letter, “Small businesses remain key to attractiveness of shopping malls” ( September 17). In my estate, small entrepreneurial shops such as computer services, stationeries with photocopy and fax services, barbers, laundries, hardware and electric stores, and locksmiths have disappeared. It is clearly more convenient for property owners to have one contract with ParknShop than contracts with a number of small wet market stores.

I have to take a 30-minute bus ride to Fanling town centre to buy computer gadgets, likewise for washing machine and air conditioner repair. There were once small traditional home-made food and wanton noddle shops at my estate offering economical breakfast options and snacks which we enjoyed. The replacement is expensive Italian food of mediocre quality, costing more than double.

Our neighbourhood has been ruthlessly changed from warm and friendly to isolated and lonely. Over time, we will not recognise our neighbours and the estate will not belong to us any more.

Edmond Pang, Fanling

Better sex education needed in schools

I am writing in response to the editorial, “Hong Kong students expected to set high standards” (September 5), which commented on a 20-year-old student at the University of Hong Kong being detained by police for the alleged indecent assault of a woman.

This incident should prompt the government to improve sex education in schools. Many students don’t understand what indecent assault is. They get most of their information about sex from the internet.

Kary Kwok, Kwai Chung


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