What it’s like to go public with your mental health problems in an era of social media

Like many social media users, Jenny Trenholm found help and solace in the songs of Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor.

But unlike many of his friends on Facebook, Trenholm needed to turn to music that was more deeply rooted in her culture for help.

“I came from a home where music was a huge part of my childhood, so I was familiar with how it would heal me when I was feeling down,” she said.

In 2016, while living in Tacoma, Wash., Trenholm went into the streets of the city after experiencing weeks of sadness and stress. She said the breakdown came after years of trying to solve her mental health issues, which she had been struggling with for much of her life.

She tried traditional counseling, counseling through phone connections, individual therapy, Amazon’s Alexa and therapist face-to-face. None of these helped her feel as cared for, with a sense of control or even a strong emotional connection with the mental health professional.

She started tweeting about her feelings. Initially sharing her depression and feelings with her 1,800 followers, the messages quickly turned into lengthy tweets with hashtag #ImACluster. When she reached out to a friend on Twitter for some help, she was also touched by their story about experiencing depression in the same way. That friend, who was friends with Reznor, responded in a series of witty messages that quickly resonated with people in Tacoma.

“It definitely helps to have someone write to you,” she said. “It’s like, ‘Whoa, it’s not as difficult as I thought.’”

After that, she started writing a regular blog about her “angst,” shedding light on her struggles with depression and anxiety. She shared more specifics about her problems through Instagram accounts like @shpane or her Twitter feed @dsternathill.

As she got more and more attention on social media, she and her family also decided to find a therapist with a more culturally sensitive approach. The family planned to use their own social media accounts to find someone who could help her navigate the emotional issues she had been dealing with.

“It’s one thing to connect with someone on a cultural level, but when you go into a private office, it’s very different,” she said.

They found a therapist through a website called Native American Health Care Foundation, which identified some practitioners in Tacoma who would be able to meet her needs.

But they also had to set aside a significant amount of time and money to find a therapist with whom they could spend face-to-face time. And they had to pay cash.

While Traditional Indian Medicine practitioners are able to access modern medical treatment in more private settings with more personalized treatments, those therapies are not available to everyone.

In addition to complicated insurance approval, they can also face an approval process that involves providing proof that they are studying the Traditional Indian Medicine method.

So Trenholm and her family decided to focus on the social media community.

“We figured if there was such a big need, there was a large population that would donate,” she said.

With the help of the foundation and other members of the Native American community, they raised thousands of dollars to support their tribe’s therapist.

Their community therapy also helped them heal their relationship with each other. Trenholm and her family now talk on the phone and email regularly. And her younger siblings have also supported her with their own mental health issues.

Her family has managed to put more money aside for other therapies, which they hope will help them with their emotional health needs.

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