OAKLAND, CA —This May, in Mental Health Awareness Month, brothers Edward Gunawan and Elbert Lim will release the Spanish language version of their award-winning webcomic “Press Play” or “Presione Play”.
Through short text and vivid hand-drawn black-and-white illustrations, the webcomic attempts to capture the experience of anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation. The project’s goal is to encourage aﬀected people to persevere through adversity—to continue “pressing play”—and seek out the help they need.
The webcomic ﬁrst launched in Asia in May 2019, in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month. Based on Gunawan’s lived experience overcoming anxiety and depression, the deeply intimate and powerful story of resilience and hope has now been viewed by over 5,000 readers from 100 countries. The project won a “Speaking Out” Mind HK Media Award in 2020 for challenging negative narratives around mental health, and was nominated for a Shorty Social Good Award and two Webby Awards.
Originally in English, the project has been translated into Mandarin, Thai, and Bahasa Indonesia to increase accessibility for diﬀerent communities. When writer and creator Gunawan immigrated to the US in early 2020, he decided to make the project available to the Spanish-speaking community, one of the groups hardest hit by the pandemic. A mini-grant from ARTogether, a non-proﬁt arts organization that supports refugee and immigrant artists in the Bay Area, made the idea possible.
“We are very proud to bestow our ﬁrst mini-grant to this project,” says Leva Zand, Executive Director of ARTogether. “It’s a great example of how art that is beautiful and nuanced can make a real impact in upending the negative stigmas traditionally attached to depression and mental health issues. Especially in the communities that we serve.”
Spanish translator Samantha Cosentino adds, “Edward and I met in the creative writing program at San Francisco State University. When he asked me to collaborate, I immediately said yes as I was taken by the combination of honest writing, beautiful
visuals, and tender message. During these tumultuous times, it’s more important than ever to remind and inspire those aﬀected by mental health struggles.”
Infectious disease outbreaks have been associated with mental health problems—with communities of color, particularly Black and Brown peoples, disproportionately aﬀected.
While the national suicide rates have decreased two years in a row, a recent study by the National Center for Health Statistics and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that symptoms of anxiety and depression increased 36.4 percent to 41.5 percent during the pandemic, particularly between August 2020 and February 2021. The teams also found that the increased numbers were more prominent in adults between the ages of 18 and 29. Suicidal thoughts and attempts also greatly aﬀect children, teens, and young adults, accounting for the second-leading cause of death among Americans ages 10 to 34, with a sharp increase among Black youth.
To support the release of the Spanish language version, Gunawan will be speaking on a mental health panel organized by ARTogether and Asian Health Services (AHS) on May 26th, 2021. Michelle Lin (Curator at Kearny Street Workshop) will moderate the panel that also includes Jennifer Chen, PsyD (Clinical Supervisor at AHS) and Shirley Chen, APCC (Mental Health Counselor at AHS). Admission is free.
The webcomic is now available to view online for free at projectpressplay.com. The Spanish language translation will be available at the same website starting May 1, 2021.