The Importance of Mental Health | メンタルヘルスの大切さ - Little Tokyo Service Center

The Importance of Mental Health | メンタルヘルスの大切さ

The Importance of Mental Health | メンタルヘルスの大切さ

“I can’t express it in words…” – The Importance of Mental Health

In 2020, the pandemic disrupted Naoki’s normal routines and restricted his connections to the outside world. Both his and his wife’s active lifestyles were replaced with working from home and being stuck inside, with growing feelings of frustration and anxiety about the future. Looking back on this period, Naoki says that “the psychological groundwork for a divorce was being built.”

When the marriage dissolved, Naoki started living alone. The difficult transition, compounded by the pandemic’s fallout, weighed on Naoki’s mental health. More and more frequently, he would be engulfed by strong negative emotions, eventually realizing that he could not continue to live this way. He shared, “I wouldn’t say I thought of suicide, but I knew I was depressed, and it would be difficult to continue on like this.” Luckily, through a friend, he heard about Little Tokyo Service Center’s mental health services provided in partnership with Keiro. With hope on the horizon, Naoki picked up the phone to inquire.

A woman with glasses listens intently to a person speakingA few months later, Naoki had his first virtual session with an LTSC therapist. Together, Naoki and his therapist processed his experiences and built healthy coping strategies to navigate tough situations and emotions. Naoki recounted one particularly beneficial exercise that helped him visualize his personal relationships and closeness with important individuals in his life. In this exercise, he visually drew a double circle on a piece of paper, drawing himself in the middle circle, people he can trust in the outer circle, and people he can trust slightly outside both circles. He shared, “Thinking about and looking at my own situation helped me. It helped me think and put down what I see into words. Words became an element of psychological support. I went through that process many times.” Naoki attended sessions weekly for two years and now goes once every other week.

For Naoki, therapy not only provided emotional support, but also opportunities for socialization in an increasingly digital world. He added, “[During the pandemic] I didn’t have much opportunity to talk to people. Sometimes I wouldn’t talk to anyone for a week. At times like that, it was good to be able to talk to a therapist.”

The pandemic was a catalyst for many people like Naoki to seek mental health support, but mental health remains highly stigmatized in many Asian communities. Despite Naoki’s openness to starting therapy, he wasn’t always on board. A few years ago, when his former step child struggled with mental health issues, Naoki took a course from NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Health) that provided a place for families facing similar difficulties to talk to each other. Despite the initial stigma he held, he said the course educated him and helped him gradually open up, becoming more aware and compassionate about mental health issues and treatment.

Naoki willingly volunteered to share his mental health journey with others. He commented, “To be honest, I’m a bit concerned if what I’ve said so far is enough. It’s difficult to put into words how much therapy actually helps. However, I thought I might be able to tell a story that would be of some use to others. Personally, I want people to know that Keiro and LTSC are working on these kinds of initiatives.”

Naoki encourages people to reach out for support and remain open to services like therapy, especially for those struggling alone. He says, “Through my experience, I realized that our hearts have their weaknesses. I feel like it’s really easy for them to crumble and break,” and that being left alone when they are weak can lead to problems in the future. “I believe that if more people can actually recognize their own mental states and receive therapy, they will be able to prevent various future problems before they occur.” With inner strength and support from LTSC’s mental health services in partnership with Keiro, Naoki is moving forward from the dark days of the pandemic into a brighter, softer future.

言葉に表せない – メンタルヘルスの大切さ


その後、二人は離婚。一人暮らしを始めたナオキさんでしたが、一人でいる時にふと、精神的に安定していない自分を感じ、「このままではいけない」という危機感を抱きました。「自殺、とまではいきませんが、Depress (鬱)の状態のままでは大変だと感じました」とナオキさん。その頃、一緒にボランティアプロジェクトに携わっていた知り合いに近況を話したところ、Keiroと提携してリトル東京サービスセンターが提供するメンタルヘルスサービスについて聞き、受話器を取りました。

A woman with glasses listens intently to a person speaking数か月後、ナオキさんはセラピストと初めてのバーチャルセッションを受けました。サービスを受け始めてから2年が経った現在も、2週間に一度のペースで話をしています。開始当初は週1の割合でした。メンタルヘルスのセラピーセッションでは、その個人のニーズに合わせてセッションのペースや内容が決まります。ナオキさんの場合は、自身の行動や考え方の振り返りを中心に内容が構成され、時間が経つにつれて前に話していた時と今話している内容の違いなどの指摘を通じ、自分を見つめたりしていました。時には、視覚的に自分の状況を理解するエクササイズも取り入れ、紙に二重丸を描き、真ん中の円の中に自分、自分が信頼できる人をその外側の円、少し信頼できる人をその外側に書くことで、自分の人間関係を視覚的に把握する客観的なセッションも受けました。「自分がどういう状態なのか、というのを考える、見つめる、それが僕にとってはヘルプになっていました。考えて、見つめたものを言葉にする。言葉が精神的に支えになる要素となる。そういうプロセスを何度も経てきています」とナオキさんは語ります。


パンデミックで注目された一方で、アジア系のコミュニティでは多くの場合、メンタルヘルスの概念が皆無な部分もまだまだあります。そんな中、ナオキさんは、サービスを受けることへの抵抗感はなかったと振り返ります。元妻の子がメンタルヘルスの問題を抱えていた際、自身の理解を深めるためにNAMI(National Alliance on Mental Health)という精神障害を持つ当事者とその家族を支援する団体の講習を受けていた経験を持っていたためです。同じ境遇にあり、困難を抱える家族同士が話し合える場が提供され、「いろいろ学ばされたものがあったので、そういうスティグマが一つ一つ減っていきました」といい、最初はスティグマがあったものの、講習を重ねることで少しずつオープンに話せるようになったと振り返りました。



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