Changing Minds on Mental Health

From left: Courtlyn Shimada, Katie Mitani, Moet Kurakata and Ty Tanioka of Changing Tides at 341 FSN in Little Tokyo. (MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

By GWEN MURANAKA, Rafu Senior Editor

“Part of our mission is to spread the idea that mental health is something applicable to everybody,” says Ty Tanioka of Changing Tides, a new organization now hosting an art exhibition at 341 FSN in Little Tokyo.

“Mental health is something that everyone can practice. Everyone deals with stress in their everyday life on an everyday scale.”

At the opening on Feb. 9, the small space on First Street was packed with people who came to see the works of art. The artists are multigenerational, with Sansei like Nancy Uyemura and Mike Murase contributing works, alongside young Nikkei like Moet Kurakata, Erika Kodama and Kendall Tani.

Kodama writes of her photos, “I have transitioned from designating my vigor from self-harm and clenching onto pain, to making the conscious effort to convey this energy into positive self-expression and creativity.”

Creativity as an outlet for mental health is at the heart of Changing Tides, a Little Tokyo Service Center initiative, which grew out of a series of conversations last year. Courtlyn Shimada, whose mom Margaret Shimada is the director of social services at LTSC, said there is a real need to open up about mental health in the JA community.

“We felt that we were all very in tune with mental health, especially being on a college campus. My mom of course is very open about talking about mental health,” Shimada said. “But we also noticed that it was kind of isolated, that we couldn’t talk to the bigger community, it was still pretty taboo.”