LTSC's "Together" Conference: Breaking Barriers in Asian American Mental Health - Little Tokyo Service Center
young man with microphone speaking on stage

LTSC’s “Together” Conference: Breaking Barriers in Asian American Mental Health

Last month LTSC hosted the “Together – A Community Conference on Mental Health and Wellbeing” at the Japanese American National Museum. Community members of all ages participated in this day-long conference aimed at addressing mental health issues and reducing stigma within the Asian American community. “Asian Americans often face barriers in accessing mental health services due to cultural norms that discourage open discussions about mental health,” said Margaret Shimada, LTSC’s Director of Service Programs.

This second mental health conference was prompted by the increased mental health challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic and the surge in anti-Asian hate crimes. LTSC built a strong network of mental health experts and community advocates to provide support for Asian American mental health. The goal of events like LTSC’s Together Conference is to foster open conversations and share personal stories, reducing stigma and normalizing discussions about mental health.

With this goal in mind, the conference began with an intergenerational panel discussion featuring individuals from various backgrounds, including students, doctors, lawyers, and activists. They candidly shared their personal mental health journeys and addressed the cultural factors that can deter individuals from seeking help. This honest dialogue set the tone for the remainder of the conference, leaving attendees appreciative of the diverse perspectives shared.

Dr. Mary Ann Takemoto, a psychologist with three decades of experience and currently a member of LTSC’s board of directors, attended the event and expressed optimism about the progress made in the community’s openness to discussing mental health. Her hope is that one day it will be as easy to talk about mental health issues such as anxiety or depression as it is to talk about physical health issues such as high blood pressure or diabetes.

The conference offered a wide range of workshops and sessions, covering topics such as suicide prevention, somatic movement, psychiatry, senior isolation, starting therapy, occupational therapy for children, mindfulness through collaging, and more. The event concluded with a musical performance by Emma Lin.

Participants were impressed by the diverse array of sessions addressing mental health for all ages. “I’m going to work with middle schoolers soon, so I wanted to learn how to support them better. Additionally, my elderly mother lives alone, so I’m eager to attend the session on senior isolation,” one attendee said.

Another participant shared their emotional experience, stating, “I have a background in social work, so I’ve been in a lot of mental health spaces. But today is emotional for me, seeing the API community come together. Seeing elders, young people, and talking about our shared culture has just been really emotional. This conference is great!”

The success of “Together – A Community Conference on Mental Health and Wellbeing” was made possible by the generous support of sponsors, including The Atlas Kardia Foundation, the Office of Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, the Japanese American National Museum, and several other esteemed organizations. Their contributions were instrumental in ensuring the event’s success and impact.

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