“My primary motivation is to remind people suffering from mental health struggles that they’re not alone,” said Edward Gunawan, a queer multi-disciplinary artist and storyteller based in Oakland. Gunawan has long used his art to break through stigma across mediums.

Gunawan was raised in Indonesia to a conservative Chinese family and despite feeling like he had to hide it, he always knew he was gay.

“I knew that I couldn’t talk about it openly,” he said, but that started to change in middle school. First Gunawan came out to his friends, then explored his sexuality, confirming his own internal suspicions.

After moving to San Francisco, and coming out completely in college Gunawan continued to struggle with his mental health, but when he discovered the power of sharing his personal story he found a way to push back.

“I pitched this idea to my brother, who is a visual artist,” he said, “lucky for me he said yes.” After consulting with mental health professionals throughout the process, the result was PRESS PLAY, a comic that tackles the stigma around mental health struggles. A book that Gunawan says has been read more than 10,000 times since its release 5 years ago.

This October, just in time for Mental Health Awareness Day on the 10th, Gunawan is presenting the PRESS PLAY: Exhibition at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center. In addition to a large-scale display of PRESS PLAY, Gunawan said, “We also have different special events that we’ve curated, for example, panels with mental health professionals.” 

It’s Gunawan’s hope that through PRESS PLAY: Exhibition, he can reach people who are struggling and tell them, “you are good.”

We’ll also discuss Gunawan’s new chapbook The Way Back, which prints in November through Foglifter Press. For more information on Edward Gunawan, PRESS PLAY,  check out his website AddWord.com.

Out in the Bay is supported in part by Project Open Hand, which provides 2,500 life-saving meals and 200 bags of groceries daily to sustain people experiencing illness, social isolation, or the health challenges of aging. Learn more at OpenHand.org. Project Open Hand – Meals with Love.

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Founding producer of Out in the Bay is Eric Jansen. This episode was hosted, produced and edited by Christopher Beale.

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