Vicktorya Roze Tassi
Vicktorya Roze Tassi as Snow White. Screenshot from her Instagram page

Growing up in Santee, Vicktorya Roze Tassi was a fan of pop culture and got to embrace her passion by attending San Diego’s annual Comic-Con celebration dressed as one of her favorite characters.

But while fans attend Comic-Con to grab a hard-to-find comic book, buy the latest collectible or see their favorite celebrities, some fans like Tassi get much more out of the gatherings.

Tassi copes with mental health issues and for her, the chance to dress up as a popular character, also known as Cosplay, and attend such events is a chance to get much-needed relief from her struggles.

“It gives me a way to distract myself,” she said. “It’s a coping mechanism. Cosplay works for me. It gives me an outlet.”

That’s why three years ago, Tassi, 29, helped create an online group called Nerds with PTSD. The group works to break the stigma of mental health illness and show how activities like Cosplay can help people cope with PTSD and other issues.

This weekend, it will have a panel at WonderCon in Anaheim, the sister convention to Comic-Con that will run from Friday through Sunday.

The panel, “Nerds with PTSD: Breaking the Mental Health Stigma with Cosplay, Fandom and Pop Culture,” will be 6 p.m. Friday at the Anaheim Convention Center. Tassi and two psychologists will explore how fandom and Cosplay benefit mental health.

Tassi and her group originally planned to present the panel in 2020, but COVID-19 postponed it. Now that WonderCon is back in person for the first time in two years, Tassi is looking forward to the panel.

Although WonderCon is much smaller than Comic-Con, it still attracts more than 60,000 fans, so Nerds With PTSD is expected to reach a larger audience

“I’m hoping that we’re able to show other people that, hey it’s OK that you have mental illness,” said Tassi. “It’s OK if you have to see a therapist. It’s OK if you have to take medication.”

Tassi  is looking forward to the return of WonderCon for other reasons. She’s planning to Cosplay each day of the event, going as Black Widow, Black Panther and Snow White on different days.

She’s also looking forward to meeting some of the members of her online group, who haven’t been able to meet in person the last two years because of the pandemic. They’re all scheduled to meet around lunch time the day after the panel.

Weekend and single-day tickets for WonderCon were still available online this weekend at Attendees will be asked to wear an approved face covering and required to provide verification of full COVID-19 vaccination status or proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours.

Luis Monteagudo Jr. is a freelance writer and pop culture enthusiast. He has written for The San Diego Union-Tribune, USA Today and numerous other publications.