Megan Lam, Founder Of Neurum Health, Has Created An App That Reinvents The Way We Address Mental Health Issues
Let’s begin with a statistic: 87 per cent of employees have reported work-related stress during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the Mental Health Association of Hong Kong. It’s grim, if also unsurprising and rather abstract; you likely read it and move on. What Megan Lam does is make statistics tough to ignore because they’re personal.
“We use data to piece together your own mental health story and give you options to rewrite it on a day-to-day basis,” Lam says of her app Clara, which uses AI to track a person’s individual behaviours. It’s a wellness companion that provides support through screening questionnaires, articles, exercises and, if needed, alerts to seek in-person help. “Our goal is to raise awareness and help people maintain their mind and lifestyle health where they work, live and play.”
See also: How To Build Mental Wellness At Work
Lam’s motivation for setting up her business is also deeply personal. While growing up in Hong Kong, she lost her maternal grandmother and an aunt to suicide and saw her mother struggle too. “I had zero mental health knowledge or vocabulary at the time,” she says. “It was a very helpless situation, watching it unfold and not knowing what to do about it.”
She was accepted to law school but dropped out at the last minute and ended up at a clearing fair where she met a rep from the UK’s Durham University; there was one spot left for applied psychology, and she seized it. During her studies, Lam became interested in online interventions and ways to reach more people more frequently than through clinics, feeling that the traditional model often provides too little, too late.
We use data to piece together your own mental health story and give you options to rewrite it on a day-to-day basis
“I realised there’s this massive gap between public health services, private clinical care and real human beings in their everyday life,” says Lam, who joined forces with software engineer Caleb Chiu back in Hong Kong in 2018. They developed Neurum Health from the ground up, using an evidence-based and inclusive approach for both their research and the app’s design. They continue to review the community data to ensure they are addressing a cross-section of needs and identities.
Gender is a key consideration because men are less likely to seek treatment and be treated for mental illness than women. “There are still certain stereotypes of what ‘a man’ is,” says Lam. “Men who can’t speak openly about their emotions may be less able to recognise signs of ill health.”
She adds that while Clara isn’t male-specific, it does string together all the touch points, from recognising behavioural changes to getting support, in a nonjudgmental, accessible way that is intended to make anyone feel comfortable.
See also: Clinical Psychologist Joel Low On How His Childhood Struggles With Mental Health Inspired Him To Later Help Others
In thinking about the language to use around mental health, Lam is mindful of cultural nuances. She launched a podcast whose name, Have You Eaten?, is inspired by how she imagines broaching the subject with her late grandmother, preferably over rice with Taiwanese braised beef.
The Clara app now has 120,000 users and counting, thanks to partnerships with companies that see its value as an employee wellness benefit. And Lam is hopeful that a paradigm shift is underway, so that mental health is not immediately equated with a severe condition or an inherent, all-encompassing identity.
We would never say ‘He’s so diabetes,’ but how often have you heard, ‘They’re so bipolar’?” Lam says. “Behavioural health is an entire spectrum and, as dynamic humans, we move along it, from surviving to thriving.”
See more honourees on the Gen.T List 2021.