Bradley Siu was born and raised in San Francisco. This father of two teenagers and photography enthusiast still lives and works here. He is a clinical psychologist trained in Executive Coaching, Neurofeedback, Trauma, and Nutrition and has served in a number of leadership capacities. Additionally, he is the owner of the Gifted Support Services in San Mateo with a primary interest in creating bold changes in mental health care systems and moving towards delivering and scaling the foundations of mental wellness through integrative care, functional psychology, and mental wellness coaching.
We met him today in one of his favorite places in San Francisco, North Beach, and at his workplace in San Mateo.
What is the moment you realized you had mental health ?
I think that's the first time I've ever heard this question, which is wonderful. My first time ever being taught this idea that there are emotions and feelings and that there are problems related to mental health was in high school, around 17 years old. In high school, during a suicide prevention class, we were trained as hotline workers as part of the curriculum.
In a very practical way, that was my entry into mental health. The instructor himself was the director of a hotline center. He took his expertise and brought it into the class. So not only did we learn about the challenges of mental health, we learned how to talk to people, and how to support them in their suicidal ideation. For us, as hotline workers, we learned how to get support, to ask questions, and to ask for back up when needed.
What do you want to improve in terms of the population's mental health ?
There are a few problems that I'm trying to solve. In my private practice, I'm trying to provide more equitable and accessible services to the gifted population. And it has a lot of challenges because, in California, the funding for gifted education has been removed. Which means that in order for parents to seek out their own gifted services, they would have to pay privately. And, of course, it creates a disparity and an access issue. What I just hope to do is to acquire funding or donations to allow underprivileged children to receive gifted services and testing.
The other problem is the future of mental health does not look promising. If our mental health treatments are improving with a stronger and stronger evidence base, and if medicines are getting better and more targeted, then why is mental health worsening around the world ?
Mental health is not isolated; it’s not an independent thing but a systemic one. It means that it's tied into many different things like our physical health, our relational health, our nutritional health, but also our culture, our socio-economics, etc. Mental health and emotional health are tied into all these different systems and there's so much overlap between every piece of those systems.
Also, mental health is dynamic, it's a moving target that it's not a one size fits all: it shifts by age, by culture, and our needs aren't static. What a child needs for emotional health and security is different than that same child ten years later.
What is your proposed solution to solve this problem ?
I consider myself an integrative mental health provider. And then of course, I can't ignore my heritage which is Chinese American, which has a long tradition of holistic healing: food is healing, culture is healing, collectiveness is healing, etc.
The solution is not isolated to one thing : we have to think about what are all the foundations to psychological and emotional health, then we need to work on them. In a nutshell, the solutions include working on all areas, like improving community sense for example. By the way, togetherness is one of the things that's drastically worse in society, especially in modern society. How did we live when we had a good mental health condition ? How did we connect with people and the community ? How much social and family interaction did we have ? We needed to connect to survive, in modern society it's the opposite.
"The solution is not isolated to one thing : we have to think about what are all the foundations to psychological and emotional health, then we need to work on them."
So I don't know if I have a fix, but I think the first thing to change is to create an understanding that our mental and emotional health treatments are missing this core piece, the foundation of health.
We can boil it down scientifically : maybe we should prescribe that ? For example physical health providers are prescribing exercise. Maybe we should prescribe spending time with family, within society, interacting with culture and community. We could also prescribe sleep, diet, etc. We need to think about all these pieces in our daily practice, the benefit from having more systemic, holistic, cultural and community approaches added to the patient treatment.
What are your plans for the future ?
One of the things that I love about mental health is there's just so many opportunities. I have multiple plans, the first one is continuing to grow the Gifted Support Services, and then provide more equitable care. Then hopefully creating family shifts and parenting shifts, and even on a small level of cultural shifts through the individual families that I work with.
Secondly, I mentioned earlier that I'm Chinese American. I have a passion for working within this culture and to help to increase mental health awareness and reduce stigma inside that population. My plan is to develop mental health seminars specifically for Asian American providers and corporate leaders. Because here in the Bay Area, I could say corporate work dominates (Facebook, Google, Apple, LinkedIn, etc.). There's an opportunity to help these leaders move mental health into their corporations. So some of the seminars I hope to create would be on a personal level for them. What's their mental health and what is the mental health of their immediate team ? Then how do you shift to the mental health of the corporate culture. So that is my plan.
Is there an artistic work, or someone inspiring that had a positive impact on your mental health ?
The person that came to mind is actually the podcast interviewer Tim Ferriss. He learns and distills how people have made or become what they have become or created, like the keys of success. He interviews quite a few people that are inspiring and he himself is very open about his mental health challenges, his treatment and his mental health journey, including some childhood trauma. His openness and vulnerability in addition to his creative work is very inspirational to me.
What is the best way to contact you ?
Interviewed by Thomas Cantaloup, on September 15, 2022
Photo credits : Thomas Cantaloup