Panda & I
Panda & I is a brand concept that explores encouraging mental health discussions in Chinese-Canadian diaspora youth communities through the use of seriocomic humour, specifically through comics (web & print).
Chinese diaspora youths in Canada face an increasing number of challenges as they progress from young individuals to working adults. The pressures of balancing societal norms with traditional cultural standards and the expectations to do so successfully for a successful future can be overwhelming; these stresses can lead to unbidden mental health problems. However, rather than seeking therapeutic conversations or services to help, Chinese youths are often deterred from them.
Mental health, a stigmatized topic so deeply embedded in Chinese cultures as the embodiment of weakness and craziness is a significant reason for the reluctance to speak out—so much so that family members are often “useless” to turn to as they share the same stigma sentiments. This reluctance negates the importance of transparent mental health discussion in treatment, and often problems persist and grow as a harmful result. To save embarrassment from the “shame” that comes with speaking on mental health, some Chinese youths turn to more dangerous coping methods such as substance abuse; others let the problems build up inside, furthering the issue.
For this project, I wanted to look into traditional Chinese cultural beliefs about mental health and the factors (above) preventing Chinese youth from reaching out about any potential mental health issues they are harboring. The aim was to explore different, seriocomic ways of encouraging and promoting mental health conversations within these communities in an effort to minimize the reluctance and cultural stigma to speak on this issue; how can humour and fun/entertainment be utilized to tackle this serious topic, and could it possibly be more beneficial in addressing the issue due to a younger audience?
This is how the concept of Panda & I came to be. It is a light-hearted comic brand concept centered around a 15-year-old Chinese-Canadian named Wong, his Panda companion and their mental health journey through everyday life. The goal was to stimulate unforced mental health conversations through quick storytelling and (the aforementioned) seriocomic humour, specifically self-enhancing and affiliative humour.