AAPI Heritage Spotlight: Sam Soliman

Happy Asian American Pacific Islander Month! We are continuing our Q&A series with some members of our community on the topic of mental wellness in connection with the Asian and Pacific Islander community. Today we are highlighting Sam Soliman! 

Sam has lived in Lancaster for 22 years and has been doing work as a freelance photographer for 6 years. For the last two years he has been the creative director and producer for a clothing company called The Hood Hippie Love Yourself. 

Q: What is your journey with mental health?

I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety since middle school. Things really got hard for me in my junior year of high school. A lot of things that I thought I had figured out had to change immediately and my mental health struggle lasted for 3 years. I felt like I was really lost emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually and during those 3 years I tried to commit suicide twice.  

One thing I really held onto during that time was art in all forms, music, painting, photography, writing, art saved my life. I’ve always struggled with talking about my problems or emotions with people. I figured the reason I was having trouble was because I wasn’t communicating it in a language, I was comfortable speaking at the time.  

What I mean is, I was not able to articulate properly what I was feeling with words, so I’d send a song or a photo that someone could see and understand what I was trying to explain. This allowed me to free myself emotionally as I wasn’t holding onto this emotional baggage I held onto for a long time. Although I still struggle with some of these emotions, knowing how to healthily channel them or talk about them with other people has made living with it a lot easier. 

Q: Why do you think mental health awareness is important in the Asian community?

I think mental health awareness is important in the Asian community because there’s a few negative stigmas regarding mental health when it comes to Asian traditions and values. Things like how it’s sometimes shamed to feel things like depression or also having to live up to certain obligations that aren’t in line with what you believe. I feel like there’s also a big disconnect with a younger generation wanting to talk about these issues and an older generation who were raised with some of these negative beliefs about mental health. A conversation needs to be had about finding the balance between both tradition and what’s healthy for your headspace. 

Q: What is one piece of advice you would give to children/youth in Lancaster looking to improve their mental wellness?

 A piece of advice I’d give to the youth about improving your mental health is to be honest with yourself and the people around you. If you need to talk to someone about what you’re feeling, talk to someone you trust. If you need space, give yourself space. Another piece of advice is to find a healthy outlet for your emotions. Finding a way to channel your emotions into something like art or physical activity really helps you process them better.