For Indonesian actor-producer Edward Gunawan, appearing happy all the time has been an exhausting charade. He has spent years struggling with anxiety, constantly trying to bury any hint of melancholy underneath a cheerful façade.
However, when a friend confided in him about their own struggle with depression, he felt that he could not keep up the act any longer.
“My friend asked me, ‘How do you manage to look so happy, Edward?’ That’s when it dawned on me that I should leave any pretense of happiness and start accepting the fact that I was struggling because there’s a lot of people out there who feel so desperately lonely in their struggles with anxiety and depression,” he told The Jakarta Post on the phone.
Acknowledging his own mental health struggles due to work pressure, Edward began seeing a therapist, a decision he said empowered him to be more candid in discussing issues related to mental well-being.
In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month this May, Edward and his brother, visual designer Elbert Lim, have launched a webcomic about overcoming depression.
Titled ”, the webcomic tells the story of a man struggling to escape the abyss of depression. The mental rut is portrayed in the comic as a series of larger-than-life chasms and tidal waves oppressing the protagonist.
“Depression tends to put us in a limbo where time is frozen. The title ‘Press Play’ essentially refers to our effort to escape the shackles of depression and move on with our lives,” he told the Post.
Edward, known for his supporting role in the film Arisan! 2, said he based the story on his own bouts of depression. He said his brother Elbert had hand-drawn the black-and-white ink illustrations over six months.
“I hope our webcomic project will be able to start a conversation about mental well-being, particularly among millennials who have experienced burnout due to work-related stress,” said Edward, who has also been active in the Hong Kong film scene since 2017.
The English webcomic, which can be viewed online for free, will soon be translated into Indonesian as well as several other Southeast Asian languages, according to Edward.
“Press Play” will also be adapted into a short, animated film in an effort to reach a wider audience, he said.
He called on his fellow millennials to never underestimate the importance of leisure in counteracting mental health problems.
“Our generation has been so deeply entrenched in this constant, professional grind that we completely forget how to enjoy ourselves. It is important for us to take a break and do something that truly makes us happy,” he said. (kes)