T is for the Taboo Breakers
Tatler Hong Kong|September 2021
Meet four Hongkongers from the Gen.T List 2021 who are changing the conversation around women’s health, sexuality and mental wellness
Kate Appleton

Generation T is Tatler’s platform for the leaders of tomorrow, and every year it releases Gen.T List, a definitive guide to the young trailblazers shaping Asia’s future. This year, Hong Kong has the highest proportion of female honourees since the list was founded in 2016, at 53 percent, and a striking theme unites four of them: breaking taboos.

These four women each take an innovative, unabashed approach to their work—and draw inspiration from their personal challenges. Megan Lam, the founder of AI-driven company Neurum Health, equips people with personalized daily mental health data, empowering individuals to monitor and treat problems sooner; Anca Griffiths is bringing to light other health concerns through expert-led sessions on sensitive topics such as postpartum healing and menopause; artist Claudia Chanhoi uses humor in her illustrations to share deeper messages about the female body and sexual pleasure; and Olivia Cotes-James, the founder of Luüna Naturals, wants to remove the shame often associated with menstruation through education and access to organic and reusable period care products.

Together they represent a new wave of female-driven businesses working to raise awareness and drive societal changes that benefit all genders. Here are their inspiring stories.

MEGAN LAM

Founder and CEO, Neurum Health

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 stats 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 behaviors. 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.”

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.

“I realized 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 recognize signs of ill health.”

She adds that while Clara isn’t male-specific, it does string together all the touchpoints, from recognizing behavioral changes to getting support, in a nonjudgmental, accessible way that is intended to make anyone feel comfortable.

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.

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