What Matters To Me: Jamie Chiu, Co-Founder Of The Brightly Project
In the What Matters To Me series, a Generation T honouree describes what they do, why they do it, and why it matters
Moving frequently between Ghana, Australia and Hong Kong as a child, Jamie Chiu felt like she didn’t belong anywhere. The hectic pace of her upbringing only slowed when her parents separated and she settled down in Australia with her mother. However, being one of few Asian students in her school, dealing with her parents’ recent split and struggling to fit in gave rise to mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, during her teen years.
Spurred on by the challenges of discussing her problems with her parents and finding resources at school, Chiu became a clinical psychologist who provides therapy to teenagers in Hong Kong, a city where mental health disorders are prevalent among young people. She also co-founded both The Brightly Project and Good Brain Labs, digital platforms to measure mental health and create programmes to help schools determine which students are at risk.
Here, Chiu describes her work in her own words.
Being from a single parent and immigrant household, I felt like I had to be strong for my mum. I grew up in a very traditional family and none of the women in my family were educated, so from a young age I saw first-hand how much my mum and grandma relied on their husbands. I also saw how difficult that was for them. That’s what made me realise I wanted to pursue my own education and work so that I could become independent.
Schools were telling me that they didn’t have mental health problems and not to talk to them about it when I first started my research in 2011. Now that has changed a lot—largely in response to the high suicide rate we saw in Hong Kong, especially around 2016—and we definitely still have a long way to go.
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Depression is traditionally viewed as more of a feminine disorder, which means it makes it harder for men to get help, but also in some cases, it means that women’s medical concerns are not taken as seriously and they might often just be diagnosed with depression even though it might be another medical condition. Women tend to be diagnosed with depression more often than men, though suicide rates are actually higher among men as they are less likely to seek help.
Almost all Asian families prioritise academic achievement over a child’s mental health. Most of the time, parents will only bring their child in to see a psychologist if it’s affecting their grades
— Jamie Chiu
Almost all Asian families prioritise academic achievement over a child’s mental health. Most of the time, parents will only bring their child in to see a psychologist if it’s affecting their grades. It’s difficult to have open conversations about uncomfortable topics in Asian families, and even though parents might really love and care for their child, they have a hard time verbalising that as praise and that can make children feel like they’re disappointing their parents.
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My dream is that we don’t have young people who have to struggle by themselves and feel like there’s no one who can help them. Even if they’re struggling with a mental health condition, I want them to feel empowered that there’s something they can do about it.
See honourees from the Education category of the Gen.T List 2019.