Cover We spoke to Hasanal and learnt all about his journey to achieving better mental health, why he started Mindish and more (Photo: Courtesy of Mindish)

We spoke to Hasanal Lythgoe-Zafrullah, founder of Mindish, a new mental health and wellness clinic in Central

In Hong Kong, stress runs high. 61 per cent of Hong Kongers suffer from poor mental health and the number of psychiatric patients has doubled from 2004 to 2014, according to research

To help solve the mental health crisis in Hong Kong, Hasanal Lythgoe-Zafrullah has just launched Mindish, Hong Kong’s first luxury mental health and wellness clinic in Central. Beautifully decorated with luxurious interiors, plush sofas, and concrete bookcases, the Mindish space almost resembles a private member’s club rather than a mental health clinic. 

Clients are encouraged to treat their mental health wellness as seriously as their physical health—Instead of personal trainers, a team of trusty psychologists, counsellors, couples’ therapists,  career coaches and dietitians all overseen by a client’s personal growth manager, work together to help clients on their personal growth journey.

To learn more about this unique mental health and wellness clinic, we spoke to Hasanal about what inspired him to start Mindish, his own mental health journey and more.

Trigger Warning: The interview below may contain triggering material. Readers who are sensitive to topics surrounding sexual assault and abuse may be advised. 

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How did the idea for Mindish begin?

When I went on my own healing journey, I realised there were so many issues with mental health. I soon learnt that the process of getting help was a frustrating journey in itself. Starting therapy was confusing; my search for the right therapist was hit-or-miss; as a whole, the experience was disjointed and inefficient. And being my overly ambitious self, I made it my mission to fix it all.

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Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

Hong Kong is home. I was born in Hong Kong to Sri Lankan parents and grew up between Hong Kong and Sri Lanka. I was raised in a typical high functioning Asian family, with a lawyer father and many of my relatives in politics and business. I left home when I was 17 for a range of reasons. I grew up in a challenging family dynamic with separated parents and an emotionally abusive mother, which meant much of my neurological development as a child did not take place healthily.

Later in life, I also experienced rape, bullying and struggled with accepting my identity as a gay man. To date, my mother won’t speak to me and my father, with who I had a cordial relationship with, has since passed, although I never formally came out to either of them.

As research now tells us, our childhoods influence the bulk of our emotional health as adults and shape us for life. I’ve had to unpack much of this as an adult while unlearning and relearning healthier ways of being.

Why do you think Hong Kong needs Mindish right now?

Why do we shower? Mental health is an essential need to the human experience just like physical health. It’s all health, really. Hong Kong, like everywhere else, has always needed Mindish, but perhaps the question should be, is Hong Kong ready for Mindish? And I’d say yes. We are having big, open conversations around mental health and given the pandemic, the city’s workaholic culture, and culture of shame and taboos, there is a lot of stuff coming to the surface that people, especially the younger generations, want to talk about.

We hope that our lifestyle positioning that intentionally contrasts with a clinic (even though we technically are a mental health clinic) will make the idea of therapy more palatable to Hong Kongers.

How do you feel about Hong Kong’s mental health resources and education for the public?

It’s very outdated and illness focused. There’s a lot that needs to change. By focusing on wellness, we can lighten the conversation and make it more appealing to a wider audience and perhaps more “trendy” because let’s be real, Hong Kongers are trendy folk!

Who do you recommend to join Mindish? How often should someone visit Mindish?

People who are serious about doing the work. People who value themselves and their mental health. We’re not looking to convert people or market the benefits of mental health to those that are reluctant to consider it. We’re like CrossFit, we want people that wake up at 4:00 am to get to the gym! In terms of frequency of visits, I’d say as often as possible.

We encourage members to see a therapist or coach at least once a week or twice a month while accessing meditation practices and events as often as possible. Personal growth managers check in with clients on a daily basis—or as needed—supporting them between sessions and outside Mindish in their everyday lives—like a best friend who gives you good advice and keeps you in check.

How does Mindish’s membership system work? What does it include?

Our all-inclusive membership gives members access to everything at Mindish: their very own personal growth manager who works with them throughout their journey.

Private sessions, with psychologists, counsellors, hypnotherapists, life coaches, career coaches, sex therapists, sleep therapists, nutritionists, health coaches and More. All of whom we can proudly say are exceptional at what they do. Meditation programming with over 240+ practices per month. Intimate member-only events from our regular book club to storytelling sessions, workshops and classes.

How does Mindish differ from existing therapy centres or wellness centres in Hong Kong?

Our approach draws on a range of disciplines maximising the benefit to our members by personalising plans to meet their individual goals and circumstances. We look at mental health from every angle drawing on psychology, behavioural health, nutrition and neuroscience. To this end, Mindish members work with a team of therapists, coaches and specialists who enthusiastically collaborate, sharing notes, ideas and research for each member’s benefit.

Every Mindish member has their own personal growth manager, a mental health expert who works with members to set goals, make plans and arrange their Mindish membership. They play an active role in each member’s journey making sure members are getting exactly what they want. They support members in ways that conventional therapists cannot, and ensure that sustainable, measurable growth is being achieved.

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Was there an incident that made you want to improve your mental health?

Research says that people decide to take this step to heal when the pain of not changing is greater than the pain of changing. In my case this certainly was true, I couldn’t continue with my previous way of being and needed to grow.

How was your personal journey to achieve better mental health like?

It’s been a real journey over two to three years. At first, like most people, I saw a psychotherapist to work on a specific concern I had but over time I realised that I could start making other and bigger shifts and changes to my life and discovered I could really change my life, so I started exploring more and more. Eventually, it basically became all I did, day in and day out I healed and grew for a good year and a bit while taking a break from my career. Best decision ever.

What treatments do you find to be the most effective for you?

I love breathwork. It’s an easy, accessible tool that you can use to regulate your emotions and mood. I start my day with breath work as I typically experience peak anxiety at the start of my day. I also love hypnotherapy (I’ve done at least 200+ hours) over the last two years as it is such a powerful and proven process to rewire your mind and remove unconscious blocks.

In addition, I also work with an executive coach, a clinical psychologist, and a psychotherapist. I love to exercise and I have two personal trainers. I kickbox, run and lift weights. I love yoga but haven’t had as much time to learn or dedicate myself to a consistent practice.

You previously founded non-profits such as We The People which aims to solve human rights challenges, as well as being a part of Planet Ally, which empowers allyship. All your previous organisations have charitable elements, will Mindish be following the same objectives?

I’ve spent the bulk of my career in nonprofit work, because truly nothing makes me happier than impacting human lives. Mindish, while certainly a business (with ambitious plans, we’re expanding to the US later this year as well), is fundamentally aligned with my heart. In that, I want to change real lives by helping people heal and grow.

I couldn’t think of a better line of work to be in, to be honest. I am also conscious of the fact that mental health services aren’t affordable to everyone, so a definite goal we have in the long-term is to find ways to make therapy and other services more accessible without diminishing the quality of care.

What would you recommend to someone who is curious about improving their mental health but not sure how to begin?

Come to Mindish! Our approach is intended to ensure almost anyone and everyone can access what they need for their mental health. We want people to come in and tell us their story and what they want to achieve—and our personal growth managers take it from there.

They’ll create a structured, measurable plan of action with clearly defined goals and milestones while identifying which therapists and coaches are best suited to work with them based on qualifications, experience and also personality because chemistry is important too.

Mindish, Level 15, 8 Wyndham Street, Central, Hong Kong 

Learn more about Mindish at mindish.com


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