Project: Press Play

Dear Press Player

Writer's Intention

 
 

Dear Press Player,


The webcomic you read is based on my personal experience with anxiety, depression and suicide ideation.

It’s simply one person’s story and it’s not meant to be representative of all. I’m not a mental health professional and my decision to open up about those dark days emerges from the hope that it may give someone out there some comfort and a reminder to persevere during times of adversity.

Maybe that person is you. If so, please continue to PRESS PLAY.



I began opening up about my mental health struggles publicly for the first time through a live storytelling show in 2018. That summer, I’d read a lot about mental health-related suicides of celebrities such as Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade and Hong Kong’s Ellen Joyce Loo.

Most of these news reports were negatively-skewed and sensational. They brought me back to a time when I used to internalize the faulty and dangerous association that death by suicide is the only inevitable conclusion for someone struggling with his/her mental health. In truth, it’s not.

While having major depression does increase suicide risk compared to people without depression,

the majority of people who have depression do not die by suicide.
— US Dept of Health and Human Services


Over the next few months in 2018, I continued to share my story through talks in local organisations and communities. My own mental health, however, took a toll when I had to re-live the memories of those dark days.

That’s when I collaborated with Elbert, a talented visual storyteller (lucky for me, also my brother), to adapt the story into a webcomic. There are two parts to this decision:

  1. I can continue sharing my lived experience in a “playful” format that makes a serious topic more approachable.

  2. Making the project available online for free will also increase its reach and accessibility. 

After Elbert hand-drew the black-and-white ink illustration over a period of 6 months, we presented the project to mental health professionals and organisations for feedback.

In anticipation of visitors who seek additional information after reading the webcomic, we then created this website to compile resources and news. We also started a facebook group to provide a space for visitors to connect with and support one another — the way I did with audience members who approached me after each speaking event.



In the weeks leading to the launch of this website, I wrestled with self-doubt, insecurity, and yes, anxiety. Who am I to talk about this? I ask myself. Will it matter?

I then remember some of the people I’ve talked with on this (very short) journey of sharing my mental health struggles publicly.

  • How a family member opened up about his own struggles for the first time and is now inspired to seek out the professional help of a therapist…

  • How I learned from a long-time acquaintance who shared with me her new self-care practice that she picked up from a book...

  • How a new friend told me she had drawn a ‘Press Play’ triangle on her wrist to remind herself to keep going in times of stress…

These were some of the most meaningful connections I ever had. Because for the first time, we were able to talk with one another more honestly, more truthfully.



Press Play is a very personal project, and perhaps that’s the point. I hope that by sharing something so vulnerable about myself, it can encourage another to do the same — to talk about our own circumstances and feelings more openly, to stand in our truths and own our stories.

As social psychologist researcher and TED talk priestess Brené Brown says,

“When we deny our stories,
they define us. 

When we own our stories,
we get to write a brave new ending.”


I invite you to ‘Press Play’ to write that new ending,

Edward

 

Dear Press Player: A mental health blog (more to come!)

Edward Gunawan