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Day in the Life: Dr Jamie Chiu

‘Growing up, I had very critical parents,’ starts Hong Kong clinical psychologist and social entrepreneur Jamie Chiu. ‘Over time, I internalised those voices of critique and added my own negative spin. It’s no surprise that as a teen I was depressed, had no confidence, didn't like who I was and blamed myself for every little thing. The sad thing is that I felt crappy for ten years. That's exactly in line with what the statistics say for most people dealing with mental health challenges – ten years before seeking help. And for those that are struggling, it’s not always easy to find support.’


Chiu’s personal story was the driving force behind creating The Brightly Project, which focuses on removing the stigma and judgement around mental health among school students. Receiving nods from Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia and Hong Kong Tatler Gen.T lists for her work, Jamie and her team offer several ingenious initiatives through the project including #TrueFeels – an app that matches troubled youths with certified professionals, each offering the teens pep talks and game plans until they actually feel better. ‘I wanted to make the process of seeking help less scary and less stigmatising, and to speed up the process of getting back to feeling vibrant and hopeful about the future.’


Here, The Style Sheet discovers what a typical day looks like for the tech-driven social entrepreneur and clinical psychologist.


Early morning


‘I wake up around seven-thirty, roll out my yoga mat and start the day off with three sun salutations and a bit of stretching. I grind some coffee beans, make myself a cup and think about the day ahead. The goal is to have a clear purpose and to help with that, we've set up an automatic prompt that every morning asks us “What do you want to achieve today and why is it important?” Everyone in our team does this exercise and the answers are shared. I then get ready quickly – I’ve downsized my wardrobe and makeup for efficiency and the environment. On my commute, I usually listen to a podcast (my current favourite is NPR’s Hidden Brain) or read something — I’m subscribed to a newsletter called Read This Thing where they send you a random but quality piece of long-form journalism each day, and so far, I’ve always been pleasantly surprised.’


Mid-morning


‘Once I get to the office, I'll typically have one or two Skype therapy sessions (I work with quite a number of teens who are studying abroad) and one or two espressos to go along with it. At any one time, I'm typically working with around six to eight clients providing therapy and coaching. My style of therapy is a bit different from what most people imagine as therapy – there's no laying on the couch while I sit back in a big chair making notes. It’s pretty interactive, and quite often we'll be doing a lot of brainstorming or sketching out plans. Then I’ll switch to The Brightly Project. My favourite days are the ones where I'm on-site visiting with schools, their student support teams and students themselves – it could be supporting the implementation of our software, learning more about the challenges we could help with or testing the latest or in-development versions of our tools and getting feedback.’

Jamie takes a lunch break at her favourite cheap and cheerful home-style Chinese eatery in Kwun Tong
Jamie takes a lunch break at her favourite cheap and cheerful home-style Chinese eatery in Kwun Tong

Lunch


‘Things always have a funny way of picking up right around noon with phone calls and emails with school counsellors and social workers, so lunch almost always ends up being closer to two o’clock. Although I’m not going to complain – it means I can avoid the crazy lines everywhere. I've got this great lunch spot, and I feel really bad saying this, but I want to keep this hidden gem secret! Wouldn't you if you could get essentially a freshly prepared home-style Chinese meal with no MSG and all-you-can-eat soup for twenty-eight dollars?’


Afternoon


‘Each day I make sure to carve out some time to do something that’s strategic for the company that can move us forward. I find that after lunch is a good time for me. I'll grab my iPad, find a nice comfy chair away from my desk, make myself a cup of Dandy Blend, put on some headphones and open up one of my mind maps in the Notability app (which I love!). Lately our strategic work has been informed by all of the mental health data our system generates. I've been working closely with our CTO to see how we can keep making our student tool even more sensitive and accurate. Then, typically at around five o’clock, my coaching and therapy will pick up again for a couple of hours.’

Jamie finds a quiet space to work at regular co-working haunt, The Wave
Jamie finds a quiet space to work at regular co-working haunt, The Wave

Evening


‘I’m often found giving a presentation or talk at a society or event. I'm working hard to try to dispel myths and stigma around mental health and suicide. It’s fascinating to get invited to share with some very diverse audiences. Most people are quite sceptical at first, often asking how technology could be used with mental health. And a lot see technology, especially among youth, as one of the root causes of poor mental health. That's a long topic for another day! The best part of these talks and presentations is the discussions we have after, the stories that people share, and the care that they have to see something good happen for the youth in Hong Kong.’

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