ISHIMAYA, TOARU (1921? - 15 August 2001) was a Japanese American psychologist and professor at CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY. His work in psychology and advocacy for Japanese American mental health led to the Civil Liberties Act of 1987, a bill for reparations to victims of WWII internment camps. 

Ishiyama was born in Stockton, CA to Japanese immigrant parents. While he was attending the University of California at Berkeley, U.S. government agents took him and his family to an internment camp in Utah. Upon his release, Ishiyama relocated to Cleveland, since the government didn’t allow his return to California. He decided to enlist in the U.S. Army Medical Corp and served in Italy for the remainder of WWII. 

Ishiyama earned his BA and PhD in psychology from Western Reserve University in 1951 and 1958, respectively. He later taught at Case Western Reserve University. As the acting director of the Department of Psychology at CLEVELAND STATE HOSPITAL, Ishiyama dedicated his research to reforming mental health services and institutions. His published articles are dedicated to shifting hospitals from a custodial environment to a treatment-oriented space for long-term patients. Additionally, Ishiyama served as the executive director of the Cuyahoga County Community Mental Health Board in 1992, where he advocated for increased funding for mental health services in the county. He was also a grant reviewer for the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

As a member of the Japanese American Citizens League, Ishiyama was an advocate for the mental health of his community. From 1981 September 22-23, Ishiyama testified before the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians. The hearing was held at Northeastern Illinois University to investigate the constitutionality of the actions by the U.S. government during WWII against Japanese Americans. Ishiyama used his psychology expertise to articulate the impact of internment on Japanese Americans’ mental health. Ishiyama states: 

“I could deal with a lot of things. I could deal with the hardships, I could deal with the physical discomforts, but I couldn’t deal with the psychological assault of being in a prison without being guilty of any crime,”

His contributions to the hearing eventually led to an apology from President Bush and reparations for Japanese Americans through the Civil Liberties Act of 1987.

Ishiyama was married to Miyako Rose and had four children: John, Howard, Richard, and Susan.

Margaret Yuna Kim

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