Oakland Asian Cultural Center Hosts Events for Mental Illness Awareness Week

An Asian American man with a shaved head and glasses waring teal sweater puts up a black and white art print on the wall
Edward Gunawan, writer and lead organizer of Press Play: Exhibition, installs a panel of his award-winning mental health comic that will take place at Oakland Asian Cultural Center during October’s Mental Illness Awareness Week (Oct 3-9) and World Mental Health Day (Oct 10). hoto credit: Rachall Lee — projectpressplay.com

In observance of Mental Illness Awareness Week (October 3-9) and World Mental Health Day (October 10), the Oakland Asian Cultural Center will be hosting a series of events including an art exhibit, panel discussions, a collaborative painting activity, and community outreach by local service organizations. 

The intention of the month-long series is to spark meaningful conversations about mental health and combat stigmas in AAPI and immigrant/refugee communities. 

The art exhibit will premiere the work of writer Edward Gunawan and illustrator Elbert Lim, who collaborated on Press Play, an award-winning comic that follows an individual’s mental health journey in overcoming anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation. 

The art exhibit is co-presented by by ARTogether and Asian Health Services (AHS), in collaboration with community partners National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) San Francisco, Justice Murals, and Lincoln Summer Nights.

Press Play has received a “Speaking Out” Mind HK Media Award for challenging negative narratives around mental health, and was nominated for a Shorty Social Good Award and two Webby Awards. Translated into six languages including Chinese and Spanish, and published as a chapbook by Sweet Lit, the comic has been viewed by over 10,000 readers across 100 countries.  

An opening reception for the exhibit will be held at OACC on Saturday, October 1, at 4pm. The reception will feature special readings by Bay Area writers Dawn Angelicca Barcelona and Hannah Wastyk. 

On Saturday, October 8, there will be a Mental Health Professionals Discussion Panel at OACC, featuring Dr. Yen Quoc and Naomi Chan of Asian Health Services, and Richelle Mah of NAMI San Francisco. 

On Saturday, October 13, at Lincoln Square Park, there will be an outdoor, family-friendly collaborative painting activity.

There will also be a Writers Panel on Saturday, October 29, at OACC, featuring Bay Area poets Michelle Lin and Christine No.

While surveys have shown a major increase in the number of U.S. adults who report symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression and insomnia since the COVID-19 pandemic started, communities of color have been disproportionately affected. 

AAPI and immigrants/refugees, experiencing a dramatic increase of anti-AAPI hate and violence as well as rampant anti-immigrant sentiments, have faced additional challenges in these past two years – especially those with lower English proficiency who often have trouble accessing mental health care due to structural, cultural, and linguistic barriers.

Click here for more information about the art exhibit and the events associated with it.

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Tony Daquipa is a dad, essential bureaucrat, photographer, urban cyclist, union thug, wannabe stonemason, karaoke diva, grumpy old man, storyteller, and preserver of history.

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