Out in the Bay: 'PRESS PLAY' breaks mental health stigma with stories

  • by Christopher J. Beale
  • Thursday October 6, 2022
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Edward Gunawan hopes his "PRESS PLAY: Exhibition" will reach people who are struggling. Photo: Sarah Deragon
Edward Gunawan hopes his "PRESS PLAY: Exhibition" will reach people who are struggling. Photo: Sarah Deragon

"My primary motivation is to remind people suffering from mental health struggles that they're not alone," said Edward Gunawan on this week's Out in the Bay Queer Radio + Podcast..

Gunawan is a queer multi-disciplinary artist and storyteller based in Oakland who has long used his art to break through stigma across mediums.

He 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 he 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. 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 published five years ago that tackles the stigma around mental health struggles. Gunawan said that it has been read more than 10,000 times.

This month, just in time for Mental Health Awareness Day on October 10, Gunawan is presenting the "PRESS PLAY: Exhibition" at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center, located at 388 Ninth Street, Suite 290, in the heart of the city's Chinatown district. 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 the exhibition he can reach people who are struggling and tell them, "you are good."

On this week's Out in the Bay, we also discuss Gunawan's new chapbook, or short book, "The Way Back," which prints in November through Foglifter Press. For more information on Gunawan and "PRESS PLAY," check out his website, AddWord.com.

Hear Edward Gunawan on this week's Out in the Bay. It airs 5 p.m. Friday, October 7, on KALW, 91.7 FM SF Bay Area-wide, and 8:30 a.m. Saturday, October 8, on KSFP, 102.5 FM San Francisco only. It is always available on Out in the Bay's website.

Christopher J. Beale is a queer independent radio host, producer and journalist who frequently contributes to Out in the Bay, the Bay Area Reporter, and KQED.

Learn more and listen here.

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