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Asian American tarot cards to be released in January 2017

We don’t talk about mental health enough.

There are things we’ll openly discuss with friends: maybe our day-to-day activities, what we had for lunch or even the intimate details of our relationships. Still, when it comes to our own emotional and mental health, we tend to brush the dark, nitty gritty details of our lives under a rug, hoping to give off the illusion of orderliness.

And with World Mental Health Day on October 10th, which was earlier this month, we need to talk about it more.

Unlike a physical calamity, like a twisted ankle or a broken wrist, mental illness can be (and has been) seen as a sign of weakness.

“Just get over it,” has been offered as the “cure.”

Given the polysemic nature of mental health, it makes sense to shy away from the topic. In fact, technical references to it as a discipline are not found before 1946, the year the International Health Conference decided to establish the World Health Organization (WHO).

There is a crisis. Yet, as the The Asian American Literary Review (AALR) points out “nobody agrees on the breath of the crisis, what contributes to it, or how to deal with it.”

According to a 2007 report by the American Psychological Association, suicide was the 8th leading cause of death for Asian-Americans.

But what does “wellness” look like? Or better yet, what does “unwellness” look like?

Those are the questions AALR, a DC-based arts nonprofit, hopes to answer with its newest project, the Asian American Tarot.

In order reveal the emotional and spiritual aspects influencing the Asian American life, AALR will produce a full lineup of major arcana cards that feature original art and text by Asian American writers, poets or artists.

The tarot deck, part of a larger project titled “Open in Emergency: A Special Issue on Asian American Mental Health”, will replace the 22 archetypes of the traditional major arcana (the Empress, the Hierophant, the Wheel of Fortune, etc.) with ones drawn directly from Asian American life (the Adoptee, the Model Minority, etc.).

It’s an “arts-based self-care package,” which AALR believes will serve as an impetus for rethinking mental health, especially within the Asian American community.

The project, AALR’s most ambitious one to date, is set to be published in January 2017.