From left: Margaret Shimada (director of service programs), Yua Watanabe (Changing Tides crew), Matthew Yonemura (Changing Tides program coordinator), Katie Mitani (Changing Tides crew), Carolyn Elliott (event host), Lauryn Alejo (Changing Tides crew), Alan Hino (Changing Tides crew), Ty Tania (Changing Tides crew), Linh Vo (Changing Tides crew). (Courtesy Little Tokyo Service Center)

The fourth annual Changing Tides (CT) gala returned on Nov. 27 at the Palos Verdes seaside estate of Carolyn Elliot.

With the event themed “Upstream,”the intimate gathering of supporters celebrated the successes of this young adult-driven Little Tokyo Service Center (LTSC) program, which has seen substantial growth since its inception in 2018. Through initiatives, events, outreach, education and open conversations, Changing Tides took great strides in 2022 towards its mission to destigmatize mental health in the AAPI community. 

“Typically in Asian cultures, you don’t talk about mental health. I think younger generations are starting to change that, and I think it’s so important to talk about it and destigmatize it and give people opportunities they may not have access to otherwise,” said CT supporter and attendee Sarah Fukui. 

The multigenerational crowd of supporters, staff, donors, friends and family at “Upstream” included the consul general of Japan in Los Angeles, Kenko Sone, as well as 2022 Nisei Week Queen Kristine Yada, who selected Changing Tides as her philanthropic platform.

Following a catered lunch by Katsuya, attendees were invited to engage in open dialogues about mental health as they listened to personal journeys from speakers including filmmaker and two-time cancer survivor Paul Goodman (“No No Girl”) and Dr. Ned Sasaki, who lost his son Kevin to suicide earlier this year. As Dr. Sasaki shared details of Kevin’s painful battle with bipolar disorder, he reminded the room of friends, family and supporters to have the difficult conversations and embrace vulnerabilities. “It’s okay,” he urged. 

“If you’re concerned with talking about mental health or your struggles with mental health, then [Changing Tides] can help,” shared Goodman. “It’s inclusive and everyone is friendly, and we love to explore those topics and be more educated and open about who we are.”

The “Upstream” event additionally celebrated the inaugural year of the CT Stream therapy stipend initiative, which successfully provided free therapy sessions to a total of 64 AAPI youth, aged 16-25, with pre-screened culturally sensitive therapists in its referral network. 

The gala concluded with a heartfelt musical performance by Miya Stepanhoff followed by closing remarks from Changing Tides Outreach Coordinator Matthew Yonemura, who announced the upcoming launch of CT Anchor, a new initiative that will provide free suicide prevention trainings to college clubs, church groups, community organizations and interested individuals in the new year. 

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