Cover Grandpa Maoyu shares his streetwear fits and mental health advice on his Instagram, @grandpamaoyu (Image: Kwun Hei)

Clinical psychologist “Grandpa Maoyu” uses Instagram to share mental health advice alongside his enviable streetwear wardrobe

Catch him lighting up his 10,000 followers’ feeds with jazzy bucket hats, Stüssy T-shirts and A Bathing Ape sneakers while repping his favourite independent brands. Since joining Instagram in 2019, Grandpa Maoyu (@grandpamaoyu) has emerged as one of Hong Kong’s hottest style influencers—with a twist. Alongside #OOTD mirror selfies, the psychologist’s posts include education and advice aimed at young people, who are as likely to ask for the ID on his new threads as they are for advice on where to turn to when struggling to process events in the news.

Turning 67 this month, the grandfather of five, who prefers to be known only by his first name to protect his relationship with clients, was born in Amsterdam and lived all over Europe growing up. He has been based in Hong Kong since 2014, but was out of town with his family when he spoke to Tatler. He explains how he balances being both a cool grandfather and a psychologist who wants to ease the burdens upon young people.

See also: 5 Expert Tips On How To Talk About Mental Health

How and when did you become interested in style?

When I am not with clients, I am in streetwear. Sometimes it is difficult to separate my home and work lives. So I always change into streetwear after sessions to remind myself I am just an average Joe now. I did not know people appreciated my style until I joined Instagram. It was my grandson’s idea; I still don’t know how to use all the functions on my iPhone. But I know how to edit photos and post on my feed.

I use Instagram to connect with people with my streetwear style, promote mental health and psycho-educate followers.

Tell us about your career.

I have worked in psychology since I graduated from university decades ago. I work clinically with both adolescents and adults for psychotherapy and counselling, and specialise in supporting clients with emotional challenges and mood disorders. I have my own practice in Central and I also work with other mental health clinics, counselling centres, non-profit organisations and schools. I believe educating children and young people is the best intervention for mental health issues.

How has the pandemic affected you?

Demand for psychological services has risen as everyone is struggling with isolation, working from home, childcare and financial hardship. The period since 2019 has been the busiest in my career. My work-life balance went out of the window and that is why I am currently taking a month’s break in Sweden. I also had to adapt to therapy via phone or video. Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer seeing clients face to face.

Why is social media useful to you?

It is a great way to share mental health-related information and let those who are suffering with mental health issues understand more about their struggles, normalise their emotions and see they are not alone. I started researching streetwear and how to pose in front of my iPhone to attract more young followers. Some do complain my Instagram Stories make them think, and they just want to relax when they go on Instagram [laughs]. As my grandson says, haters are going to hate.

What do you need to be cautious of?

I let my followers know not to take my posts or our conversations as clinical advice and to seek advice in professional settings. I avoid communicating with followers I do not have a personal relationship with and posts that reflect personal views. There are no rules about psychologists’ personal use of Instagram but there is still a risk of inappropriate self-disclosure and the potential for dual relationships if clients come across my page.

What are the issues around mental health in Hong Kong?

Around 61 per cent of the population reports poor mental health and there has been an increase in suicidal cases since 2019. People are more comfortable talking about mental health, but may not notice signs, dispel stigma or seek professional help. In Asian culture, there’s a belief that if we don’t talk about something, then it will be OK. But depression isn’t something you can just shake off. Talking is one of the most powerful ways to reduce the stigma of mental health.

See also: The Art Of Self-Care: How To Take Care Of Your Physical And Mental Health

How can people protect their mental health and watch out for others?

Talking about feelings is not a sign of weakness—it is self-care. We get “tunnel vision” when we are worried and upset, so listing past successes helps balance unhelpful thoughts. Allow space and time to do things that make you happy, and stay connected with others. Among friends, be aware of behavioural changes, such as not wanting to talk or go out, which can signal bigger issues. Lastly, be kind to yourself and others. Kindness can make the world a more manageable place.

See also: How To Cope With Stress And Anxiety During Covid-19 According To Hong Kong Mental Health Experts