14 Oct A working model, speaks out about mental health and her ongoing journey as a survivor. Meet Genna Town.
As the global awareness department for the Texas Fashion Industry Initiative, we take a lot of pride in bringing the world stories about Texas fashion industry professionals. In this particular instance, however, we came across an even deeper story about a very courageous young woman who felt comfortable in sharing her dark past in order to strengthen her continued journey as a survivor and hopefully help others who may be suffering as well.
All too often the stereotype of mental health and those who suffer from mental health issues bring up images of a certain “type” of person. Models, for instance, seem to have everything. But as recent movements prove, being a victim to unhealthy environments and the mental health issues that follow, can happen to anyone. Currently, removing the stigmas attached to mental health, stereotypes, and the issues that come with it, is a pioneering journey of the zeitgeist, and it’s important to allow courageous, open voices like the one featured in this story to be given a platform to reach the masses. We applaud Genna Town in sharing her experiences and being so open about escaping an abusive home, discovering modeling, and using its disciplines to better herself while learning to love within. This is her story.
Genna Town, Photograph by Steve Ellinger
SLTV: When were you approached with the opportunity to enter the modeling industry?
GT: Roughly 6 months after we finally left my stepfather, I was approached with the modeling opportunity. I was a freshman in high school. My manicurist recommended me to Lari (of The Agency) actually and that’s kinda where it all started.
Genna Town, Photograph by Soury Phan
SLTV: When we discussed this in the past, you mentioned that modeling saved your life. How did modeling save your life?
GT: Modeling saved my life because when I first started freshman year I was struggling with depression, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts due to the abuse, but when you know you have shoots coming up, you can’t have cuts all over yourself. When I started modeling I had to learn healthier coping mechanisms for my self-harm since I couldn’t be covered in scars or cuts anymore. I also had to learn how to be confident even on the verge of a panic attack. I grew to have duties and shoots constantly scheduled, so I couldn’t go through with any suicide plans since I started holding myself accountable for these shoots and was prideful that I was never a no-call/no-show or late. Doing runways helped me gain self-confidence and forced me to learn other healthy ways to cope with my trauma and self-harm urges. It’s been a journey but thanks to my amazing mom and support system I’m happier and healthier than I’ve been in years.
Genna Town, Photograph by Derick Baclaan
SLTV: Wow, Genna. You are a very strong and courageous young woman. Thank you for sharing. Are there any resources for those trapped in an abusive home or suffering from mental health issues that you can share? Did you have anything like that in the past or was leaving your stepfather and entering modeling your only saving grace?
GT: Honestly when we were with my stepdad I never thought it was abuse. It wasn’t until months after we left, while I was in therapy, my therapist said “That is abuse. You were abused”. So unfortunately I don’t have any resources for abuse but I do have a lot for suicide and mental health issues. The Crisis Text Line, however, 741-741, that was a big one I utilized, but unfortunately, there aren’t enough resources for mental health in America. Good therapists are expensive, the suicide hotline is so understaffed and overworked. Mental hospitals are almost always at maximum capacity and it almost seems like there is still a massive stigma around mental health. While it has gotten better, it is still not where it needs to be. Having mental health problems is still talked about like it’s an issue rather than a disease, which it is.
SLTV: Yes, we hope to see things progress more. At least the movement to remove the stigmas attached to mental health has begun, and also bringing to light the understanding that certain unhealthy environments may even trigger mental health issues. You mentioned that you used to have panic attacks. Those are very scary. Can you share some coping methods you’ve learned that help you with your panic attacks?
GT: I have a lot of coping mechanisms for panic attacks. My biggest one is my service dog, Lady, but there are grounding techniques, like 5 things you see, 4 things you hear, 3 things you feel, 2 things you smell, and 1 thing you taste (The 5-4-3-2-1 Coping Technique). Having someone ask you easy questions about senses like what does the air feel like? Is it cold? Hot? What’s the texture of your pants? But my advice for anyone who is trying to help someone with a panic attack is to approach slowly, talk calmly, ask them if it’s okay to touch them, or if they are too close. Do breathing exercises with the person having a panic attack – in for 4, hold for 4, out for 4, hold for 4. Do not get angry or irritated with them if they can’t do it. Panic attacks are scary for everyone involved and sometimes it’s hard to control your own body. With my service dog, she is trained to alert me to an upcoming panic attack and she does what’s called deep pressure therapy. She lays on top of me and the pressure of her body (she’s a 140lb Great Dane) helps calm me down.
Genna Town, Photograph by Jennifer Crowder
Can you share with me, what have been your most coveted modeling jobs and how modeling has helped you on your road to healing?
GT: Some of my proudest moments has been getting into Vogue Italia, shooting in Hawaii, and getting to watch “baby models” as I call them, break out of their shells and grow. Getting to do all these things showed me that people cared about me, not only with the way I looked but how they wanted to work with me as a person. They enjoyed my company. They truly believed I was a good person and worthy of love, which is something I struggled to believe a lot.
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SLTV: You are a remarkable woman. Thank you for sharing so much with us and our readers. What have you learned about inner beauty Genna? Do you think that plays a role as a successful model?
GT: Inner beauty plays a role in everything in my opinion. Even simple stuff like walking through a store. When you know your beautiful inside, you carry yourself differently. But in my opinion, yes, inner beauty has a lot to do with being a model. If you don’t know you’re beautiful inside and out, how can you convince others that you are? It’s okay to struggle sometimes, no one is perfect, but I truly believe every single person is beautiful. Inside and out.
Genna Town, Photograph by David Constante
The National Association of Mental Illness is the largest nationwide mental health advocacy grassroots organization with hundreds of state organizations, affiliates and volunteers. It is a hub for support groups, free education, raising awareness and building community.
This nonprofit provides community-based mental health services to adults, especially those suffering medical, social or substance-related comorbidities.
The American Psychiatry Association is the largest professional membership organization of psychiatrists in the world. The APA website hosts “Let’s Talk Facts” brochures on a range of illnesses, professional resources for psychiatrists, psychiatric residents and medical students. It publishes up-to-date news, research, government policies and developments in psychiatry.
This is the National Institutes of Health’s collection of resources from the National Library of Medicine. It includes information about conditions, treatments, patients, families and friends, latest research, drugs and supplements, terminology and definitions, videos, illustrations and clinical trials.
The World Health Organization’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse has a Project Atlas, which compiles resources and information about mental health and neurology policies, prevalence, statistics, medicines, professionals, information systems and publications. Topics covered include mental health in emergencies, maternal and child mental health, neurology and public health, disorders management and suicide prevention. Information can be searched by region, country or worldwide.
This website, run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides government information about mental health taken from the Centers for Disease Control, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health, Medline Plus, FindYouthInfo.gov and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The information is for the general public, health care providers, policymakers, schools and communities.
LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL AND TRANSGENDER
The National Alliance on Mental Illness GLBT resources page contains articles, videos, publications, research and links to prominent organizations about GLBT mental health.
The Centers for Disease Control maintains a section about LGBT youth health issues.
The GLBT National Help Center provides an online peer-support chat as well as free, confidential counseling over the phone for the GLBT community.
The GLBT National Help Center runs this website, which contains more than 15,000 GLBT resources and offers tools for users to find local community centers, youth groups and support resources.
The creators of the Oscar-winning short film “Trevor” founded The Trevor Project. The organization provides suicide prevention and crisis intervention for LGBTQ youth between the ages of 13 and 24.
The American Psychological Association’s Help Center on Sexual Orientation’s website provides research and information on mental health issues surrounding sexual orientation.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website hosts screening tools, a veterans crisis line and a guide to mental health conditions that often plague veterans.
The National Association on Mental Illness has a Veterans & Military Resource Center, which is home to online discussion groups, information about veteran mental illnesses and treatments. It includes information about advocacy for active-duty members, returning veterans, veteran families, veterans in recovery, veterans looking for work, mental health providers, college faculty members and women veterans.
Military Pathways is a site created by Screening for Mental Health and the Department of Defense that allows military members and their families to take free, anonymous mental health or alcohol self-assessments. Completion of the assessment directs users to referral information for Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs services.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health website provides statistics, news and treatment information.
The National Institutes of Health provides this online index of information, videos and training tools about senior health, including mental health and wellness.
The National Council on Aging promotes programs that help seniors cope with mental health issues like depression, anxiety, addiction and more.
The Office on Women’s Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides access to research, publications, Surgeon General Reports and general information for women’s mental health issues. This includes problems related to pregnancy and conception, menstruation, menopause, women veterans, suicide prevention and mental illnesses.
The National Institutes of Health’s Women and Mental Health index contains information, research and publications about women’s mental health.
The World Health Organization website contains a section on global mental health as it relates to issues of gender and gender disparity.
YOUTH, TEENS, SCHOOL AND COLLEGE STUDENTS
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Adolescent Health offers information about adolescent mental health across states, adolescent mental health disorders and access to care.
The Jed Foundation is an organization committed to the mental and emotional health of college students and preventing suicide among this population. The foundation runs several free online self-assessment and resource programs for students and campuses. It offers training tools for campus professionals to improve their mental health services for students.
This is a hub of government information about youth mental health issues, including substance abuse, LGBT issues, bullying and homelessness.
A project of the Jed Foundation that provides a free, confidential online resource about emotional health to more than 1,500 colleges and universities.
LawLifeline is a combined project of the Jed Foundation and Dave Nee Foundation. It is a free, anonymous and confidential online resource for law school students to seek out information about depression, anxiety, suicide, stress and self-harm.
The UCLA Center for Mental Health in Schools created the School Mental Health Project, an online collection of tools, research, publications and resources for school practitioners and professionals.
ANXIETY, OCD, PTSD AND DEPRESSION
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America raises public and professional awareness, promotes research advancement and provides referrals for children and adults with anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorders and related disorders. The website provides information about these conditions, their treatment and resources for professionals.
This is the website of the nonprofit advocacy organization Freedom from Fear. It contains a wealth of research-based information and treatment referrals for anxiety and depression.
Autism Speaks is a prominent autism research and advocacy organization. The website contains links to apps, tool kits and a resource guide for families and individuals with autism spectrum disorders.
The Autism NOW Center is a resource for individuals with autism spectrum disorders and their families. The Center’s resources include fact sheets, webinars, a newsletter and a call center. It focuses on the topics of early detection, intervention, education, transition, aging, community inclusion, long-term care and health care reform.
The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance is a national peer-led organization run by individuals with depression and bipolar disorder. It provides support groups, peer specialist training, wellness tools, research, podcasts, brochures, publications and information for clinicians.
The National Eating Disorders Association is a nonprofit supporting people with eating disorders and their families. It provides an information and referral helpline, extensive information about eating disorder prevention, treatment and recovery, as well as handouts and toolkits for parents, coaches and educators, and forums for discussion and stories of recovery. The website is also available in Spanish.
An online community for teens that encourages healthy body image.
The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation awards grants to scientists conducting research on causes and treatments of mental disorders in children and adults. This includes schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress, attention-deficit hyperactivity and autism.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services agency on behavioral health, runs several mental health campaigns and has information on health reform for providers, families and individuals. SAMHSA also has a helpful online behavioral treatment services locator.
The website of the current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) provides complementary information to its print edition about the classification, assessment, symptoms and treatment of mental disorders.
The Mayo Clinic, the largest medical practice and research group in the world, provides reliable physician-backed information about mental illness definitions, causes, symptoms, prevention, treatment and support.
MindWise offers screenings for mental health concerns, providing military members and their families to take free, anonymous mental health or alcohol self-assessments.
This is SAMHSA’s behavioral treatment services locator.
Half of Us is a project by mtvU and the Jed Foundation that encourages public dialogue about youth mental health issues and refers high school and college students to resources where they can find help.
The Find a Therapist service from Psychology Today helps users find mental health professionals in their area.
The American Psychological Association’s Help Center contains a Find a Psychologist directory and help resources in the areas of work and school, family and relationships, health and emotional wellness, disasters and terrorism, and managed care and health insurance.
Mental Health America is a community-based network with 240 nationwide affiliates that provide services such as counseling referrals, support and finding housing for the homeless.
The National Council for Behavioral Health is a collective of more than 2,000 member mental health and substance abuse treatment organizations. The National Council is known for creating Mental Health First Aid, a public education initiative consisting of an eight-hour course that provides participants with a crash course in understanding mental illness risk factors, impacts and treatments. It is aimed at increasing early detection and intervention.
UCLA’s School Mental Health Project compiled a list of hotlines that are useful for school practitioners.
Sexual assault prevention and awareness organization Safe Horizon provides a hotline for domestic violence victims, sexual assault victims and crime victims to receive 24/7 free crisis counseling and safety planning.
This is a confidential, toll-free, 24-hour suicide prevention hotline. Call 1-800-273-TALK to receive counseling and local referrals.
A list of hotlines for teens facing issues ranging from bullying and abuse to drugs and eating disorders.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline provides 24/7 counseling and support to victims of domestic violence and abuse at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
The Veterans Crisis Line provides confidential help for veterans and their families at 1-800-273-8255.
PsychCentral is an extensive annotated directory of mental health resources, including general information, as well as blogs, online communities, support groups, articles, quizzes and books.
This is the official website of the American Psychological Association, the largest professional psychology association in the country. It’s made up of more than 130,000 clinicians, researchers, consultants, educators and students.
This is the official website of the American Psychiatric Association, the largest psychiatric organization in the world. It’s made up of more than 35,000 member psychiatrists.
About.com maintains a robust collection of articles about mental health topics.
This is the mental health page of the U.S. government’s web portal for federal resources and information.
This is the website of Psychology Today magazine. The magazine covers a range of topics in psychology authored by experts in the field.
NAMI shares insight from mental health professionals on a wide array of topics. From mental illness in children to defeating stigmas, these blog posts offer education, suggestions, and real life stories on living with mental illness.
PsychCentral maintains an extensive collection of mental health blogs. These are subject to community ratings.
Psychology Today offers a directory of blogs run by mental health professionals and experts in a range of specialty areas.
This list was last updated in January 2020. For the most up-to-date information for each resource, please refer to their website for more.