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heART's hope received many artistic and meaningful entries. All submissions were asked to address mental health and/or suicide, identified the personal meeting for them, The following 3 submissions were selected by a committee to represent the AA/PI award. These 3 awards addressed the following: 

  1. Addresses mental health and/or suicide

  2. Identifies the personal meaning it has to you

  3. Identities lessons learned from participating in the project

  4. Expresses a message of hope for others

Embrace Your Golden Cracks
heART's hope AA Award Recipient

Artist: Quynh Nhu Nguyen

Ethnicity: Vietnamese

Instagram: @sunrises.on.pacific

“Embrace Your Golden Cracks” is an acrylic painting. This painting was inspired by the Japanese art of kintsugi - 金継ぎ, where the broken ceramics and pottery are repaired using lacquer and gold dust, leading to a new creation even more beautiful than the previous one. Rather than discarding a broken ceramic or hiding its cracks, kintsugi embraces its flaws and accentuates every crack and fragment with shiny gold dust. Through this painting, I hope to inspire others to see themselves as beautiful ceramics, new creations, born from their suffering and difficulty.

 

Many times I felt hopeless, trapped, and isolated as I went through struggles and difficulties during my life. I didn’t know why these things happened to me, or how to make sense of it. I thought I could never heal from it or become the perfect person that society or people around me wanted me to be - the perfect child, the perfect student, the perfect Asian. I wanted to get better and start over, but it seemed the past and its consequences kept dragging me back. Should I have resigned to this life of failure and despair till the end?

 

By fate I discovered the photo of a kintsugi vase, and just like that, it spoke to me that I too was a broken ceramic. Yet unlike my negative thoughts and self-pitying, this time I can be mended anew. It calls out to me to embrace my flaws, sufferings, joys, hopes, bad and good experiences and become a new person. It’s a matter of perspective, of molding my mind to see the golden cracks that shine through my body and soul. It tells me to be patient with myself and let’s mend the broken and beautiful bits of myself and my life together, accentuating my imperfection and turning myself into a new work of art. With this project, I became in touch with myself and recognized the importance of tending to the wound of our mind and soul. With every stroke of colors and shape, I found peace and excitement of rediscovering my hidden aspiration and long forgotten memories. I learned that mental health and sufferings are hidden wounds that we don’t recognize within ourselves and others.

 

To my audience: As you observe this painting, I hope you have fun discovering hidden motifs and meditate on your own life stories. Just as light and darkness, yellow and purple embrace each other, so too does your sadness and joy, success and failures join in harmony. You must keep on living, taking care of yourself, have compassion for others, and know that your imperfection too is beautiful. You are never a pile of failure only meant for discard. Your suffering, experience, joy, hope, and dream are all that make you the beautiful and one-of-kind creation in this world! Through the art of kintsugi, I hope that you will find peace, comfort, and hope in your life. See how your golden cracks glisten in the light and shine through darkness!

After I Was Carried Away
heART's hope AA Award Recipient

Artist: Allegretta Alive

Jamaica Plain, MA

Instagram: @spiritofselflove

My submission to heART’s hope is a spoken word, music video called “After I Was Carried Away.” It's in video form, with the words written out for those who need or prefer the visuals. The video is minimal in design to be easy to read, not necessarily for stylistic choice. I produced the music using a MIDI controller, Logic Pro X, and several sample libraries of ambient and orchestral sounds. The content of the narrative is about how preverbal trauma as a Korean-American adoptee has impacted my ability to express myself throughout my life, particularly, communicate and navigate emotions and deep, reflective thoughts. In my moment to moment and day to day life, I don’t examine how preverbal trauma has impacted my ability to communicate - it’s only once I realize that I need to talk through an emotion or feeling that I'm having that I remember it’s an issue. My experiences of racism have also impacted my outlets for self-expression. This submission is about the various compounded trauma I've experienced in my life, mentions how it can feel challenging to live through it, and how music has helped me to work through my own mental health. Personally, this submission is an exercise in the aesthetic of music that I intend to create more of, combining spoken word with ambient sounds. Keeping it under three minutes long was a valuable challenge to keep the narrative concise too. From this experience, I had the opportunity to really see how far I've come on my healing journey and how much I've learned about orphan and adoption trauma as a young adult. I have felt misunderstood and under-represented for much of my life, because many of the narratives that are in film and television about adoptees glorify adoptive families, demonize birth families, and rarely, are there creative projects that are about adoption from adoptee perspective. It also represents that I can courageously share what I've learned in order to help another person - on my own terms and in my own way. I decided to submit a piece of music accompanied with a journal entry narrative style to show how music has greatly helped me to self-reflect and self-soothe safely throughout my life. In the creation process, I was able to experience that! My message of hope for others is that your past doesn't determine who you are or what your future holds. Being alive is about creating yourself and your own life, and the more we each do that, the more we set ourselves and our world free. I also hope that my piece honors the life of Nicholas Fatu Sevelo, his loved ones, and advocates for more mental health support within our AANHPI community. Additionally, I hope any Asian-American adoptees who watch or listen to my submission feel validated and that they are beautiful and lovable.

Take My Hand
heART's hope AAPI Award Recipient

Artist: Emily Chen

Ethnicity: Chinese

Facebook: @disorient.represent

This music video, "Take My Hand," combines my songwriting, singing, and collage. I wrote this song to begin coming to terms with my experience of suicidal ideation, particularly during my sophomore year of college. Back then, I had next to no knowledge of mental illness, aside from the deep pain from a classmate's death by suicide. I didn't know what depression was, that Asian Americans could have it, or that I had it. I had no idea if it was possible to ever feel better. I felt so utterly alone. I only knew that suicide would profoundly hurt my loved ones. So the desperate, dark thoughts in my mind terrified me. I sought help because I was so scared of the part of me that wanted to die. I worked as hard as I could in therapy to get as far as possible from that darkness. But this darkness is my pain, and hiding it from myself and the world in the years since has allowed this wound to fester. I am still on my journey to heal this wound, and so by making this music video, I hope to bring this difficult experience into the light in an honest, authentic way, to melt away some of the darkness and pain within me. By compassionately acknowledging the intense pain and fear that came with my suicidal ideation, perhaps I can let that hurting part of me know that although it can be so hard to hang onto hope, my efforts to heal aren't in vain: I am now surrounded by people who know me, care for me, and love me. "Take My Hand" is a reminder to myself and hopefully to my fellow Asian Americans out there: if you find yourself in darkness, remember that there are still stars, these stars can guide you forward, and daylight will come before long.

Leaking Colors
NI and Native Hawaiian Award Recipient

Leaking Colors - Malialani Dullanty.jpg

Artist: Malialani Dullanty

Lanpahoe, HI

Ethnicity: Chinese and Native Hawaiian

I primarily created with watercolor on canvas. For me depression hits like an inky black that causes all the colors of life, all the joy, just leak out. Not muted, but gone entirely, and in constant danger of being totally overwhelmed by that darkness. I did this and several other pieces this year during Covid when I really felt like that depression might never let up. This project is such an amazing opportunity to show even dark times can be used for bright things. There is always hope. This summer, with lots of therapy, I finally feel that way again. And I hope this project encourages others to feel seen and safe enough to seek out the help they need.

Ends With Us
NI and Native Hawaiian Award Recipient

Marie Hingano- AAPI MH submission 8-30-2021 - Marie Hingano.png

Artist: Marie Hingano, 27

Orem, UT

Ethnicity: Chinese, Tongan, and Maori

Using a digital canvas, I decided to give a narrative of how mental health has affected our past to the present. In my own personal experience, I've seen how generational trauma has affected not only mine but every family I've met and has resulted in the passing of unhealthy behavioral results and or worse- tragedy. In today's age, we have the fortune of speaking up and through those efforts, we are able to not only spread word and break the stigma of mental health, we can unlearn what will prevent growth and relearn that which can prevent suicide and save many in the process.

It Becomes Us
heART's hope Honorable Mention

Artist: Bruce Tetsuya, 24

Englewood, CO

Ethnicity: Japanese

The birth of this project came about from the cloud of depression that creatives faced during early quarantine times, back in March & April of 2020. I was forced to move home in wake of the pandemic, dropping several other projects and paid work I had slated, with no real sense of when they’d be able to resume, if at all. That feeling of uncertainty sent myself and my community into a dark place. As filmmakers especially, not having anything to focus our energy on, or ability to collaborate with regular sized teams and conditions, was crippling. In April, I began to write a visual poem of sorts, to address the claustrophobic and repressed nature of our lives during that time. We tackled this through spoken word, dance, and film. Our main idea behind tackling mental health with It Becomes Us was to show catharsis through choreography, and tell a universal story of what so many of us were experiencing in tension and release. The actual process of making this piece was a huge help to my mental health, and to the mental clarity of the two people I worked with (Jacob Glazier the co-director, and Han Andrew our dancer). Movement is such a vital part in healing, and we hope that others will take that message away from the piece. Despite still being in a pandemic, it’s important for us to not sacrifice our mental and physical health for fear of going outside. Even if it’s just for a quick walk, we can’t let the decrease in socialization be the death of movement. That’s the direct meaning of the piece, although we directed it to be general enough so it could ring true to any number of situations. A line from our original spoken word goes, “There was a spark - of light, of love… hold onto it. Embrace it.” These words are juxtaposed with imagery of a man suffocating, embers burning, and silhouettes through a clouded window pane. The poem leads into the title we came to for the piece, It Becomes Us, which is to say, however things may seem in this current moment, the way we carry ourselves now will define our lives for the years to come.

Love Letter to My Younger Self
heART's hope Honorable Mention

H Nielson - a love letter to my younger self no. 1 (2021) - Matt Ruskin.jpg

Artist: Heidi Nielson, 32

Washington, DC

Ethnicity: Japanese

@heidinielson.art

At age 32, I feel like I'm finally parenting a very lost and lonely inner child and showing her the love she always deserved. After reaching a crisis point with my mental health about two years ago, I finally sought professional help, found the right therapist and right medication and am slowly, slowly learning to validate myself instead of always basing all of my self worth on how I am viewed by others. I am sure I'm not alone in having been extremely hard on myself when I was young and beating myself up that I couldn't "fix" everything I hated about myself. I used to absolutely HATE this series of photos of myself, so painting and embroidering them was very therapeutic. It was honestly a struggle to write a neutral list of attributes that did not include negative words like "awkward" or "nerdy" or "weirdo," so I'm proud of myself for being kind to this BB who was not kind to herself.

Love Letter to My Depression

Kang, Yoo-Jin-A love letter to my depression-and a word respair - Yoo-Jin Kang (1).png

Artist: Yoo-Jin, Kang 

Washington, DC

Ethnicity: Korean

My project’s creative focus is interdisciplinary, integrating portrait photography, poetry, and affirmation writing.

 

My project, “A love letter to my depression” addresses mental health in a deeply personal way. While visioning for this work, I imagined sitting down with my depression, inviting them for tea, offering a blanket, and having a conversation. The idea was to listen first to what my depression had to say and then write a letter in response ...honoring depression’s impact and experience in my life, while also providing counternarratives. The energy of expressing gratitude and boundaries. I also wrote a list of affirmations in honor of a word that is not used in the English language anymore: “Respair.” Repair is the return of hope after a period of hardship. It was an inspiration to me in writing my letter and affirmations.

 

This submission is deeply personal in a multitude of ways.. First, I am writing to myself and my depression. Second, the photographs I use are self-portraits from a time in my life where I was actually at a height in my depression. I didn’t know fully what the future held, and I thought I had already experienced the happiest I would ever be. These photographs are a reminder that even in my low, I still felt a sense of hope that maybe I would be proven wrong (and I was). Creating art was an act of resistance, surviving, and respair.

 

Lessons from participating in this project: Being open and honest about my mental health has empowered me to seek care, through community, therapy, and self-work.

 

The opportunity to share creatively and honestly about mental health, specifically as an Asian-American woman, was incredibly affirming and deeply touching. The thought of reaching other AANHPI community members could bring me to tears because I ached for that so much of my life.

 

My message of hope for others: There are so many versions of yourself you have yet to meet. Be gentle with yourself as you discover them, reach out for support (so many people want to be there for you) and know that you are loved unconditionally, even when you feel undeserving of it.

Pursuit of a Life's Purpose

Pursuit of a life’s purpose - Gopaal Seyn.jpeg

Artist: Gopaal Seyn, 54

Houston, TX

Ethnicity: Asian Indian

Life is a roller coaster whose troughs and peaks can often become difficult to navigate. During these times of duress and confusion, we often feel as if we have to fight the battle all on our own. Soon, every day feels like you’re trapped inside a box and no matter which direction you move, right or left, you end up in the same place. There’s no excitement, just monotony and perpetual sadness. In times like these, seeking help through creative mediums such as art can help us express ourselves and thereby result in a form of catharsis. Every color and every line on the canvas can be a part of your story and become part of the mark that you decide to leave on the world. Through creation, you’ll find a renewed sense of purpose, and with that will come the restoration of your vigor for life.

Dark Angel's Wings

Dark Angel's Wings - Heidi Lee

Artist: Heidi Lee, 43

Boston, MA

Ethnicity: Korean

“Dark Angel’s Wings” Acrylic on canvas

 

turbulent emotions

swirling

through my veins

Shards of broken bodies

Am I a sinner

Am I a saint

can both reside within

the same entity protect me, dark angel

save me from

myself

 

This 12x12 inch painting describes the internal process of one clinging on by a thread, uncertain if they will make it to the following day, uncertain if the suicidal ideations will overtake them. Feelings of terror, relief, desperation, yet clinging to hope — all within the same entity.

 

This was one night I almost did not make it through. Ive survived suicidal ideation since age 11, but this particular night was more aggressive than most after being raped by a “friend.”

 

Painting this internal world helped me see the depth of my pain and (even more than a diagnosis) helped me to see that if I did not fight for my life, I would not have received that second chance.

 

Painting this reminded me of the healing power of art and reflection.

 

My message of hope to others is to fight like hell for the things that matter most — You Matter. Fight for the best version of you. You have so much to give.

Janus Re-imagined

Janus Re-imagined Yeo

Artist: Valerie Yeo

Portland, OR

Ethnicity: Chinese

 (1)This project was creating in a digital painting medium (i.e. Procreate).

 

(2) Describe how your project addresses mental health and/or suicide In ancient Rome, Jani were ceremonial gateways used for symbolic transitions—particularly entrances and exits deemed auspicious. Scholars regard Janus as the god of beginnings and endings, and he is usually represented by a double-faced head, signifying his ability to see both forwards and backwards. I am a psychologist, and in my work, I often witness people move toward suicide as an option when it feels there is no other option—when they cannot see a way forward and feel stuck. This quality of “stuckness” may ring especially true at this particular moment in time, when so many mental health struggles are interwoven with systemic and institutional injustices, and inequities in access to resources. When we cannot see ourselves and our experiences contextually, we begin to internalize damaging, unhelpful, and untrue messages about ourselves. In my project, I wanted to explore the concepts of duality, multiple meanings, and seeing in more than one direction. I also wanted to reimagine Janus as an Asian femme. Similar to Janus, the chrysanthemums on each side of the painting have dual meanings. They represent life and rebirth, but also sorrow and remembrance. Likewise, the jacaranda flowers growing on the heart in the background represent wisdom and rebirth in the heart space. My goal was for this project to represent a multiplicity of paths forward, as well as a call to see ourselves more fully within our contexts, especially in times that feel dark or unforgiving.

 

(3) What is the personal meaning of your submission? I have experienced my own struggles with anxiety and depression. In those times, it can be difficult for me to see outside of my immediate feelings. This project was a reminder for myself, that there are usually other paths available to us, if we can just look.

 

(4) What lessons were learned from participating in the project? The lesson that comes to mind most immediately is patience! Some of the line work in this piece felt painstaking. However, creating this piece was also a reminder to myself to focus on the journey and process over the product, and that sometimes by focusing on the journey, we wind up where we are meant to exist.

 

(5) What is your message of hope? There is always hope, although it may take some searching to be able to see it. We so often ignore our heart space and the call of our bodies in favor of the cognitive mind, and this pull is so reinforced by our capitalist society. It is my hope that eventually, we will collectively reach a place where we can welcome all the parts of ourselves as beautiful and valuable—even the parts that seem disparate or that have been ignored for too long.

The Healing Lotus

The Healing Lotus - Elim Mak

Artist: Elim Mak

Brooklyn, NY

Ethnicity: Chinese

 I am a Chinese Canadian American artist and art therapist living and working in New York City. My calling to help others through art therapy and the healing power of creativity was catalyzed by my own trauma history and personal struggle with mental health. I grew up as the only daughter and middle child in a repressed, ultraconservative, Chinese Christian minister’s family. My parents disavowed our ancestry for the sake of Western assimilation, and my creative and racial identities were often dismissed and negated. As a child I constantly felt like an outsider, and Art subsequently became my comfort and constant companion. As an adult, I regard my fine art practice as restorative, essential self-care. My paintings are visual contemplations on human connection and emotional experience retold through the use of Asian art & design motifs, Chinese traditional customs, and Buddhist iconography.

 

The Healing Lotus is about the intimate relationship between pain and healing – two sides of the same coin, and that Life is ultimately a continuous process of becoming. In Asian culture the lotus is a time-honored symbol of purity, enlightenment, and a metaphor for rebirth and post traumatic growth. Even in the muddiest of waters, a beautiful flower blooms. During times of adversity and upheaval, one has the choice between two paths: either rise to the occasion to make meaning out of suffering, or remain mired in despair and hopelessness. Emotional wounds can eventually be healed and become valuable, unexpected pathways into transformative insight, creating new possibilities and redefining one’s life purpose.

 

The lotus also represents mindfulness, a practice that stems from Buddhist tradition and a vital coping tool for wellness. When engaged in regular, intensive mindfulness meditation, one learns to recognize that thoughts, feelings, sensations are transitory phenomena, like passing clouds in the sky. The positive result is developing an observing self that does not easily succumb to cognitive distortions, ruminations, or impulsive, self-destructive behaviors. Through this present-centered awareness one is freed from the ensnarement of negative emotional states.

 

Engaging in a healthy, balanced lifestyle – a holistic pillar of mental health – bears equal weight to therapy and treatment. There is a sense of urgency right now in the wake of horrific, spiking, anti-Asian violence in this country. Through mindfulness and meaningful connections, one experiences an enhanced existence that is not necessarily pain-free, but where one possesses greater capacity to make space for everything that arises and at the same time feels seen, heard, held, and validated. This is how we heal.

You Call Me Corona

Artist: Amy Manion, 36

Cambridge, MA

Ethnicity: Chinese

My spoken word video, You Call Me Corona, was created in response to the heightened racism I experience as someone who “looks like they could be Chinese” during this time of COVID-19. To most Asian/ Pacific Islanders, this racism that we experience is nothing new. In fact, racism towards me, and generationally, has colored so much of my identity and the way I see myself. As an Asian woman suicide attempt survivor, making this piece was truly inspiring for me. Taking pride in my culture and being myself unapologetically is how I resist and how I live in a world that seems to be at times antagonistic to me and my kind. 
I gain strength from my ancestors, from my faith, and my API people. I am totally in my power when I speak and sing my words. And that cannot be taken away. My experience cannot be denied because it is my own.

 

By participating in this project, I learned that I am not alone in experiencing heightened racism for being and looking East Asian. The Massachusetts Coalition for Suicide Prevention, who accepted this piece into their Fall 2020 Public Service Announcement Suicide Prevention Campaign, let me know that this very racism toward the Asian population in America, was a contributor to the “underlying risk factors for suicide and heightened due to the Coronavirus.” They gave it a name. They let me know I am not crazy for feeling the way I feel. Feeling isolated, feeling othered, feeling targeted, and shunned. Hated. Disgraced.

 

Having my piece shared by HARMONIOUS—a community intervention program run out of UMass Medical Center that addresses the mental health needs of the Massachusetts Chinese community—and translated in to Chinese was a dream come true. I want to reach other people like me and that look like me, to unite in solidarity with our shared experiences, and strengthen our resolve, strengthen our desire to practice self-care. As Audre Lord, a black woman writer, stated about self-care: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

 

My hope is that by speaking my truth, and by being myself, I can inspire others to do the same. That I can gain strength in knowing I have something to say, knowing that others are listening. Knowing that they are witnessing what they may have a similar experiences with. Knowing that they are not alone and that there is help. That their voice matters. That they too can reach out for help. Whether that’s through the arts, movement, or finding a counselor or any other way they can care for themselves. We all need help on this journey and it is okay to ask for help. We deserve it. And we deserve to be heard and understood. Speak your truth. Find your tribe. Be a witness to your own story.

America in Transit

America in Transit - Manion/Watson

Artist: Amy Manion and Kaleigh Watson

Cambridge, MA

Ethnicity: Chinese

“America in Transit” (2019), photography/ photo-narrative, is a collaborative work between myself and Kaleigh Watson (photographer, makeup artist, set design/ props). Originally accepted by HARMONIOUS (Instagram: @projectharmonious), with a different photo-narrative.

 

Narrative: Celestial and ethereal, I am America and the golden orb I'm holding is the sun. I am enveloping the sun.

 

I have felt so belittled, othered, disgraced, shunned, hated. I have seen the way my Chinese mother has been treated. I have learned about the history of racism towards our people since we started settling here in America. I have felt silenced. Unknown. Feared.

 

Yet, I am becoming. I am viewing myself differently. I am shining. Brightly. Blooming. Singing, dancing, laughing, playing music and silly games. Writing. Writing to save my life. Fighting to be understood, represented, heard.

 

Yet resting in the gift from the Creator: that I am known, seen, heard, and understood. Loved. Cherished. Me, a suicide attempt survivor, wrapped in the love of his world. Wrapped in beautiful clay here on earth.

 

Our people have a right to have a place under the sun in America. For our image to be represented, to be magnified, and undeniable, and undeniably present. For am not I too America?

 

Description: This is a photo-narrative and photograph/ photoshoot collaboration with my friend and photographer Kaleigh Watson. This photo features me, an Asian woman and suicide attempt survivor. The photoshoot collaboration was so meaningful and fun for me to participate in. The arts and creative expression has been instrumental in my healing journey. This was the second photoshoot I did with Kaleigh and it boosted my confidence in my ability to portray a character and to transform myself into something different. Acting has long been a way for me to transcend my experience and a way to experience joy and freedom. I sing, I play guitar, I write, I perform my spoken word poems, I create art, I dance. It is just who I am. I learned from participating how much I have to give, how much I enjoy acting, creating, and collaborating. My message of hope is what a suicide prevention advocate told me: find that one reason to live another day. Maybe it’s your pet, or books, or a loved one. Maybe it is the hope that one day you will be hopeful again. I realize that we all need each other to survive. You are my one reason. Stay alive. I must stay alive so that I can share my story to help others want to stay alive too. If you can’t find that hope now, reach out to someone who can hold the hope for you. As the National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association (NAAPIMHA) encourages, so do I: if you need support, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You don't have to be suicidal to call; they are there to provide support. 1-800-273-8255 or text the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741-741.

Light of Hope and Love

Light of Hope 20171118 - Claudia Matteo.JPG

Artist: Claudia Matteo, 44

Chantilly, VA

Ethnicity: Chinese

This photo was taken by my dad with artistic guidance from me on a trip to Maui to support my sister. She had recurring thoughts of suicide especially around Thanksgiving each year, which is when our mother had passed away years ago. She accepted help and was diagnosed with major depressive disorder and substance use disorder. My perspective of the photo shifted depending on where we were in the healing process. One day, the photo represented the support that her dog was able to provide her while I was there for her from a distance. During relapses, I saw the contrast between dark and light. What always stood out though was the light of hope and love. (She has since gotten married and has a beautiful child, so her support system has grown. I am so very proud of her.)

Ends With Us

Marie Hingano- AAPI MH submission 8-30-2021 - Marie Hingano.png

Artist: Marie Hingano, 27

Orem, UT

Ethnicity: Chinese, Tongan, and Maori

Using a digital canvas, I decided to give a narrative of how mental health has affected our past to the present. In my own personal experience, I've seen how generational trauma has affected not only mine but every family I've met and has resulted in the passing of unhealthy behavioral results and or worse- tragedy. In today's age, we have the fortune of speaking up and through those efforts, we are able to not only spread word and break the stigma of mental health, we can unlearn what will prevent growth and relearn that which can prevent suicide and save many in the process.

The Morning Hour

The Morning Hour - Dao Than

Artist: Dao Than, 29

Littleton, CO

Ethnicity: Vietnamese

For many years, I would cry myself to sleep in the closet. Thinking back to those times, I cannot remember all of the reasons why, but I do remember all of the feelings. I was sad. I was hurt. I was angry. And I would cry and cry and cry. I could not stop, so I would crawl into the closet so that my crying would not wake anyone up. Hours would go by, but the tears would not stop and the pain would not go away. I would clutch onto my chest, begging to some higher power: “I don’t want to feel this anymore. I don’t want to be here anymore.” At some point, I would fall asleep. Every time I would wake up from the bright sunlight beaming through the bottom of the door. THE MORNING HOUR. My photograph portrays those times in my past. I did not realize it then, but the sunlight was like a reminder of another day, another chance at life. My mental health journey has never been easy, but it has been much easier since I have learned to deal with my depression rather than ignoring it completely or trying to cure it altogether. I have accepted that my depression is a part of me and I’m slowly finding ways to make it manageable.

 

To the people who are crying themselves to sleep and to the people wishing that their pain will go away, I know you are sad. I know you are hurt. I know you are angry. And I know you are tired, but I hope you know that you are not alone. There are a lot of us—a lot of us to shine the light into your darkest days.

How Do you Fix a Broken Mind

Artist: Pata Suyemoto, 60

Woburn, MA

Ethnicity: Japanese

My creative focus is spoken word and I have created a video of me performing “How Do You Fix a Broken Mind.”

 

My piece charts my journey from attempting suicide at sixteen to becoming a mother and realizing that my life was no longer mine to take. For me this realization meant that I had to follow a healing journey and decide that I was no longer going to entertain the possibility of suicide.

 

This piece shares part of my story and the role being mother has played in my life and how it pushed me to reject suicide as an option. In many ways, having my daughter saved my life. She gave me a renewed purpose to live.

 

I hope by sharing this piece that others who struggle can realize that there are reasons to live and that relationships and connections can be lifelines.

Brightside

Artist: Myhraliza Aala

Brightside is a 14 minute, drama/coming of age, narrative short, however, I have submitted the trailer with the hope you'll consider the short. The film follows Nikola, a college student who is dealing with her suicidal father, while combating her own depression. She is torn between her need to respect her family’s privacy and her need to seek outside help, as encouraged by her roommate. As a Filipino American, sharing such private information with anyone outside of the family is considered shameful. Nikola must determine how to face her demons before it’s too late.

 

Having my own personal experience with depression and recognizing that mental health issues were rising by 24% across the country (2019), Brightside was created as I believe it could help pave some positive light in how self-identifying and reaching out when struggling can be beneficial. Some States have passed legislation in the summer 2019, where high school students are now able to take a mental health day in order to respond to the mental health crisis, one of which was the State of Oregon, where this project was filmed; with the highest suicide rate among the ages of 10-24 in the country, according to data from the state of Health Authority,(US News, July 21, 2019). Brightside is a story of hope during times of darkness. My purpose in making this film was two fold: 1) to help decrease the stigma of mental health and seeking support through counseling or other resources 2) to let the Asian community know that they are not alone and it’s okay to ask for help.

 

We met our short term goal in submitting this short to film festivals and had a successful run in the 2020-21 festival season. The long term goal was to a) make this into a feature b) to collaborate with University campuses and utilize the film as a learning tool, coupled with speaking engagements that would provide a unique and engaging way to talk about mental health. We initiated this on the Whittier campus this past spring and would like to continue capacity building on more campuses, but have not had the opportunity to bring forth this story to more audiences.

 

One of the lessons learned in the film festival process is that sharing a story about mental health and suicide with a hopeful resolution in a short amount of time is challenging – because mental health and suicide are complex. However the intent was to create a story where mental health and suicide could be safely and openly be discussed without any stigma of shame. While strides have been made to promote the importance of mental health, it’s still a hard topic for many and there’s more work to be done.

 

My hope is that Brightside can change the stigma around mental health and encourage people to reach out when they are struggling. I hope that when people watch Brightside, they can look around and see that they are not alone, that there is help for those who are suffering, and reaching out for help is important and welcomed.

Photography

Photography - Jacob Yeung

Artist: Jacob Yeung, 39

Chicago, IL

Ethnicity: Chinese

1. "Wisdom comes from nothingness" is a single image taken from a collection of surrealistic photographic self-portraits titled Jacob’s Ladder, taken inside my living room throughout the Covid-19 pandemic (2020-2021).

 

2. Creating these images helped to manage the effects of isolation, such as loneliness, despair, and cognitive decline. The nightly ritual of preparing the lighting set-up, conceptualizing, and experimenting through much trial and error was also a retreat from the troubling social discourse and anxieties of the time. As a regular practice, I meditate and use my art to turn inward and explore my reality within. This project’s focus is to correspond those abstract ideas about the self, to myself and others through photographic storytelling. "Wisdom comes from nothingness" represents the power of intuitive insight as the two figures are one with no clear boundary.

 

3. These highly symbolic images represent my interests in philosophies and spiritual beliefs, channeling ideas taken from tarot, astrology, and kabbalah. Using light painting and other special effects, each image documents both technical performance and theatrical performance in self-portraiture.

 

4. This series really helped me get lost in new processes, find a novel passion for art-making, and finally conceptualizing ideas related to personal growth and development in a fun and abstract way. I believe there are psychological benefits of exploring the psyche through symbolic visual art and performance. By stirring the soul, it makes the unconscious conscious, enabling growth when confronted with whatever arises. Putting this together has been a meditation on the grander scheme of life which gives me a fuller realization of self and confidence.

 

5. Treating art with the respect of religious practice is a powerful thing to discover. I hope to inspire others to experiment with unorthodox ideas and to lose themselves in art, meditation, philosophy, and spirituality, for inner fortitude and development.

Our Shared Depression

Our Shared Depression = Hallie Maxwell.JPG

Artist: Hallie Maxwell, 24

Meridian, ID

Ethnicity: Japanese

My creative focus is ceramic sculpture. This sculpture is inspired by the collective depression felt by many during this pandemic. The thoughts of the figure have manifested as carvings which have begun to consume the body. Yet, the adversity the figure is facing is revealing an inner creativity. One thing that I have learned from creating this sculpture is how universal my own feelings that I expressed within it are. While it can be easy to feel like a lone figure, we are never alone. By sharing my story through art I have felt more connected than ever. I hope that I can inspire others to do the same.

My Story is Full of Lies

Artist: Pata Suyemoto, 60

Woburn, MA

Ethnicity: Japanese

My creative focus is spoken word and I have created a video of me performing “My Story is Full of Lies.” My piece addresses the social determinants of health that have impacted my mental health. It examines the ways that society individualizes mental illness rather than taking into account the factors outside of the individual that might drive despair and depression. This piece comes from my experience and thus it is extremely personal. I think that it is important to acknowledge that that mental illness isn’t just a matter of genetics or personal lifestyle, instead it is influenced by a number of factors including physical and social environment. When I share this piece, I think about the fact that as a person who lives with mental health challenges, it is important for me to realized that it is not a personal failing that determines my wellness. I hope that others find hope from this message and realize that mental wellness is supported by external environmental forces and internal resilience.

Song For a Friend

Artist: Logan Chan, 28

Denver, CO

Ethnicity: Chinese

1) My submission is a video of me performing an original song that I wrote from the perspective of someone who is concerned about the mental health of their friend.

 

2) The lyrics tell about how someone might start a conversation with their friend, emphasizing how important it is to validate their feelings. The narrator offers their friend assistance with connecting to resources and people who may be able to help.

 

3) The personal meaning of the submission is that I have friends and family that have mental health issues and I am working on being more supportive.

 

4) I did some research on talking about suicidal thoughts as someone who is concerned about a friend/family member and learned a lot. I learned that starting a conversation, having resources on hand, being empathetic and not critical are all important in supporting someone who might be having suicidal thoughts. One finding that really stuck out to me was the misconception that talking about suicide might "put the idea in someone's head", research shows that conversations about suicide are unlikely to lead to suicidal ideation.

 

5) My message of hope is that sometimes, one has to reach out to friends and family in order to give hope to people that need it.

Spoken Word Poetry 

Artist: Mike Cho, 28

Seoul, Korea

Ethnicity: Korean

For my project, I will be submitting a video of my Spoken Word Poem. My poem starts off by talking about the experience of a native Hawaiian from their perspective and transitions into the feeling of having to conform to society's standards as a result of colonization, and ends with a message of hope for the AANHPI community. Although I am not of Hawaiian decent, reading and researching about their stories and struggles broke my heart and helped me to empathize with their pain. From being occupied by the US, to the genocide of 1893, to their sovereignty and culture getting stolen, to barely surviving and stay afloat. The stories made me feel deep anguish and hurt for the native Hawaiian people. It led me to recall the painful experiences of my Korean parents and ancestors of when they were colonized by the Japanese and having to survive through the Korean War, revitalizing the country, and immigrating to the states for a better life. Many common issues regarding mental health and suicide tends to be considered taboo in Asian culture. Although our generation of people are speaking out about it more, culturally, it is still not spoken about as much as it should be. Writing and performing this poem is a way for me to be a voice, a story, an experience for the AANHPI community and to the world. My poem is also a message of healing for those who are hurt from cultural and societal pressures that lead to mental health issues and suicide. I hope that anybody that comes across my poem can come to a place where they accept who they are and own their roots. To not be ashamed of it despite the stereotypes and the misrepresentations of Asians in general in the media and society. But to proudly represent their heritage and ultimately love who they are. That is my message of hope.

Leaking Colors

Leaking Colors - Malialani Dullanty.jpg

Artist: Malialani Dullanty

Lanpahoe, HI

Ethnicity: Chinese and Native Hawaiian

I primarily created with watercolor on canvas. For me depression hits like an inky black that causes all the colors of life, all the joy, just leak out. Not muted, but gone entirely, and in constant danger of being totally overwhelmed by that darkness. I did this and several other pieces this year during Covid when I really felt like that depression might never let up. This project is such an amazing opportunity to show even dark times can be used for bright things. There is always hope. This summer, with lots of therapy, I finally feel that way again. And I hope this project encourages others to feel seen and safe enough to seek out the help they need.

Stargazing Lily

Stargazing Lily (Poem).png

Artist: Anonymous

Bryant, AR

Ethnicity: Filipino

Stargazing Lily (poem) 

when a flower grows
its petals open
they start leaning towards the sun
their source of light. 
they 
photosynthesize the energy
and use it to grow even more
they take in the worse things that people breathe out
and take them in 
only to digest them
alchemize the exhausting parts of individuals
and turn them into something that they live from. 

i’m a flower. 
a delicate and wonderful flower
i'd like to think i’m more like a lily. 
Not a stargazer lily.



stargazing 


lily


one that opens up to the heavens and asks why do i exist
my core 
exposed to the world. 
allowing everyone to put their nose it in. 
i like being a flower
something that started out small. 
grounded. 
wanted to sprout into something more. 
founded. 

i never saw myself as a flower. 
i’m not that kind. 
i don’t like being 
ripped out of where i was meant to be
I’m not artificially 
supposed to be 
wrapped up in a display
I’m meant to be found. 

dead flowers 
go back into the ground
I’m a flower
who’s afraid to see what winter has in store
i don’t want to feel the pain of being exposed to the harshest things that i cant control
I’m afraid of being exposed in my midnight hour
I’m afraid of not having light to give me power. 
i wonder what i look like in the night. 
stargazing inside a refrigerated morgue. 
where other bouquets of death cafes
anniversary wakes,
I’m sorry i forgot what occasion it is today. 

 

Janus Revisted

Revisted - Valerie Yeo.png

Artist: Valerie Yeo

Portland, OR

Ethnicity: Chinese

(1)        Identify your creative focus 

This project was creating in a digital painting medium (i.e. Procreate). This piece is a companion to my first submission on April 12, 2021. There is a lot of overlap in the meaning between these two pieces, with some differences, detailed below.

 

(2)        Describe how your project addresses mental health and/or suicide 

In ancient Rome, Jani were ceremonial gateways used for symbolic transitions—particularly entrances and exits deemed auspicious. Scholars regard Janus as the god of beginnings and endings, and he is usually represented by a double-faced head, signifying his ability to see both forwards and backwards. I am a psychologist, and in my work, I often witness people move toward suicide as an option when it feels there is no other option—when they cannot see a way forward and feel stuck. This quality of “stuckness” may ring especially true at this particular moment in time, when so many mental health struggles are interwoven with systemic and institutional injustices, and inequities in access to resources. When we cannot see ourselves and our experiences contextually, we begin to internalize damaging, unhelpful, and untrue messages about ourselves. 

In this project, I again wanted to explore the concept of duality and the embodiment of multiple meanings and paths forward. As in the previous painting, I wanted to reimagine Janus as an Asian femme. The koi surrounding the Janus femme represents perseverance and overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Additionally, the lotus flowers represent self-regeneration and rebirth. This project is representative of one’s journey of emerging from dark spaces into light.


(3)        What is the personal meaning of your submission? 

I often fear becoming overwhelmed by heavier emotions, and do not always remember that the heavy emotions can be a gift. We are more whole when we embrace and accept the spectrum of both light and dark.

(4)        What lessons were learned from participating in the project?

Similar to the first piece, I tried to focus on the process of making this piece, rather than on the final product. I allowed myself permission to create this piece in the moment, rather than planning out the entire composition from the beginning.

(5)        What is your message of hope?

There is always hope, although it may take some searching to be able to see it. We so often ignore our heart space and the call of our bodies in favor of the cognitive mind, and this pull is so reinforced by our capitalist society. It is my hope that eventually, we will collectively reach a place where we can welcome all the parts of ourselves as beautiful and valuable—even the parts that seem disparate or that have been ignored for too long.