Hidden or ignored?

“Hikikomori” is a Japanese word referring to social withdrawal. In Western countries, the term “NEET” which means “Not in Education, Employment, or Training” is more commonly used. Hikikomori is a more researched topic in Asia, I suspect, due to the emphasis that these cultures place on socialisation and social conformity, it is just ‘not right’ for people to be socially withdrawn. In contrast, biological conditions like autism receive little attention. It is articles like this that reminds me of why I want to pursue a research study on autism in this country. It is one of the things that irks me about Asian society, that is when researchers direct so much attention into this topic whilst ignoring the needs of autistic people.

Quotes from the news article, “Hong Kong’s hidden youth: societal pressure driving city’s young into apathy and reclusiveness”

Tung, who preferred not to give her full name, is among 140,000 young people in Hong Kong in similar situations, according to Dr Paul Wong, a clinical psychologist at the University of Hong Kong and an expert in social withdrawal. He estimates that up to 2 per cent of Hong Kong’s population could be considered withdrawn, significantly higher than in Japan, where the condition is better known and estimates of prevalence range from 0.4 to 1.2 per cent.


“It’s not a mental issue. It’s very hard to find a biological reason for this kind of behaviour. It has more to do with environmental, sociological and parenting issues. The very high expectations of parents and society are pushing young people into these conditions.”


“These young people are not easy to find,” says Jack Chiu Tak-choi,manager of the ELCHK social service team. “These kids just want to hide in their rooms. They often look like Tarzan or wild people, with long hair and a wild look because they have been shut inside for so long.”


“About half of the withdrawn youth have other related mental problems, like depression, anxiety or autism,” Chiu says. “Most expect to get back into society, but don’t feel ready.”

People keep saying that socially withdrawn people are difficult to find but surely autism is something you can start with. If about half of the estimated 2% socially withdrawn are autistic, that is quite a significant minority. I’m not saying social withdrawal is not a problem, it deserves attention as much as anxiety and depression. Neither am I saying that all people with autism are socially withdrawn, but if we can identify an underlying condition (autism) amongst this population, shouldn’t we be targeting that? What are we doing to help those with autism other than putting them through social skills training? Have the researchers asked them? What have these youngsters been told about autism? I can only imagine it’s not something they are proud of. And by the way, autism is not a mental problem. So many unanswered questions, researchers call people who are socially withdrawn hidden youth. The way I see, they are not hidden but ignored.

My interview is tomorrow but I want to post it here and now because I know I can’t say this directly during the interview. 😉

Related post:


When 5.46 > 5.66

When I updated my passbook on Thursday, I found that a service fee of HKD50 has been deducted from my account. Since the bank has closed, I logged into my internet banking account and chatted with their live operator to find out what this was about. I was told that this was because my account balance was below the minimum required amount. I was already on a tight budget and knowing that they will deduct a monthly service fee felt like another setback. I do know that there is a requirement to keep a minimum amount of balance in the account. However, certain exemptions apply. For example, if you hold another account with the bank, they will take into consideration your balance in that account too. Every employee in this country has to sign up for a compulsory savings scheme, it’s something like a pension fund, a fixed portion of my salary goes into this account which I can’t utilise unless I retire or leave the country. I signed up for a scheme under the same bank and I have asked the bank before if my contributions to that scheme counted towards the consideration of the minimum required balance. I was told that it did, in other words, I don’t have to worry that my current savings account would fall below the minimum balance requirement because my balance in the compulsory savings scheme will be sufficient to cover the sum. As such, it isn’t something I have to worry about over the years, which is crucial because I don’t always have a fixed salary. However, the live operator I spoke to was now saying that the contributions I made to the compulsory savings scheme did not count. I was needless to say, annoyed with this conflicting information. Seeing I’m not getting any further useful information from the online operator, I went down to my local branch the next day to clarify. I approached the front desk staff with my enquiry, immediately, they brought up the minimum balance requirement upon which I asked if my contributions to the compulsory savings scheme counted, to which they both replied in the affirmative! This was a delight to hear because that means I have indeed been provided with conflicting information by the bank. In the end, I still don’t know what was the service fee for as they told me they needed more time to investigate. But at least for now, I know that even if the online operator is correct, I have a valid claim to request the bank to waive and refund me the sum that has been deducted due to the misleading information.

After my visit to the bank, I decided I might as well run other errands on the same day. I needed to bring my custom-made earset to the shop for repair, which involved a trip to one of the most congested area in this country. I also needed to drop by the money changer to exchange some Singapore currency to local currency so I could pay my bills. However, the money changer I usually go to is not anywhere near the repair shop and I wasn’t keen on making separate trips. I do know however that there are many money changers in the area near the repair shop. Before I left the house, I checked the exchange rate of the money changer I usually go to and made a note to find one that offered a comparable rate, which was 5.66 or above. It was a very warm and humid day, I was wet and sticky, the streets were narrow and crowded with local people and tourists, walking at snail’s pace, the hot air was filled with the smell of sweat, cigarettes and strong smelling food, I couldn’t wait to get out of the place. I kept a look out for money changers along the streets. Usually, they had a screen or board where they would list the exchange rates and I reminded myself to look out for rates at or above 5.66. After passing about two or three shops, I passed another and stopped to look at the screen, I wasn’t sure if they had the rate displayed for Singapore dollars, but the staff beckoned me forward and asked what I was looking for. I thought instead of trying to look for the information on the screen, she could give me a quick answer but it was a mistake. She quoted 5.46. I didn’t know why I actually thought that 5.46 was greater than 5.66 and ended up giving her the money. I’ve never been good with numbers, but I have specifically reminded myself to look out for rates above 5.66. What happened? I was flabbergasted with myself. Did talking face-to-face with the lady disrupt my train of thoughts I’ve forgotten what I was supposed to look out for? The other day I was at a pharmacy looking for something and one of their shop assistants approached to promote a product they were selling, she was talking non-stop (even though I indicated no interest) and I found myself having difficulties concentrating on what I was looking for while she kept talking. I should have gone back to the money changer I usually go to.

Photo by noodle kimm on Unsplash

On my way home, I dropped by the pet store to get some cat food. My cat only eats a certain brand and when the shop assistant asked if she could help, I told her I was looking for a brand of canned food, except she can’t help because I suddenly can’t remember the name of that brand! I told her I will recognise it when I see it. What the hell was wrong with me? Has early dementia kicked in?😂

Just when it seemed to be another bad day, I received an email from the university later that day regarding my research application. For those who know, I sent in a research application to the local university last year but was unsuccessful. I sent in another application in April (same university, different faculty) and they wrote to invite me for an interview this week. I will write more about this later, but for now, the interview would be my priority and I will be keeping my fingers crossed!


Since my full-time contract with the research centre came to an end in August last year, I have been working part-time (fixed pay, 2 days a week) at the same centre, in addition to 2 other part-time which pays by the hour. I enjoy the work I’m getting from the centre (literature reviews), however, with the amount of papers to read and write, 2 days a week isn’t enough. A co-worker told me I should use my personal time to work on writing and publishing a paper for the research centre, which is something I’d love to do. It is actually a great advice and I don’t mind using my personal time to do something I like but that person doesn’t understand that this isn’t practical for casual and part-time employees, I can’t work without getting pay. Doesn’t that person know that the costs of living in this country is one of the highest in the world? I worry if I will be able to pay my rent and bills and I just found out my bank has deducted a service fee of HKD50 (around USD6 or £5) from my account because I don’t have a sufficient balance, that is just penalising the poor, isn’t it? I’m tired of trying to make sense of this world, I’m tired and upset (but I’ll be fine, I just need to rant)

Yellow bird

Black-naped Oriole

Yellow Bird

Yellow Bird
up high in banana tree
Yellow bird
you sit all alone like me
Did your lady friend
leave the nest again?
That is very sad
makes me feel so bad
You can fly away
in the sky away
You’re more lucky than me.

Black-naped Oriole

May the force be with you

I was helping an employer recently with some paperwork in preparation for a civil law suit she has filed against someone else. As you can imagine, there is a lot of documentation involved. While we were sorting them out, she asked if I thought she was crazy. She felt strongly that a wrong has been committed and that she has to put things right. Considering the seriousness of the wrong committed and the fact that the wrongdoer is someone close to her, she has every right to feel strongly about it and I guess the pressure of engaging in a long-drawn legal battle was getting to her, but does that make her crazy? Hardly no. I think about myself and my friends at WP, autistic individuals and their families, and marginalized groups in society. Parents fight for their children’s rights to education, people fight against discrimination, people fight for support, people fight for their rights, people fight against the mental health system, people fight for the research community to listen to them, people fight to be accepted, we are constantly at war against a system that has consistently failed us, a system where the poor gets poorer and the rich gets richer. At least my employer knows who she is up against, I don’t even know who we are up against or whether we have a case. And not to mention that she has the financial means, she could hire me to help her with her paperwork, she could take a whole year off and still keep her job whilst I immediately lose my income when she took off without a word.

On a separate incident, I asked someone recently if she could be my research mentor after reading some of her works which touch upon social injustices. Just when I thought I found someone who shares a common interest, the first thing she told me when we met was that the university will not be able to offer me any kind of support. I appreciated that she was trying to be honest with me upfront but she didn’t even ask what kind of support I need in the first place, and I know there will be obstacles in asking for reasonable adjustments but how am I to trust someone who is not even willing to give it a try? It is everyday injustices like these that make me feel I’m fighting a battle against invisible and sinister forces. Surely someone must think I am overreacting? Am I not crazy for thinking that I could challenge the system?