Where to find online support for noncoastals with life difficulties?
July 14, 2019 8:00 AM   Subscribe

Hello, I am very much steeped in our (Mefi, coastal, blue-state...) world and its open attitudes toward therapy, meditation, self-development, etc. I am interested in learning about how Americans who aren't part of my world talk about their difficulties. For example, a friend from the Appalachian region says that in her hometown, antidepressants are acceptable but therapy is absolutely not, because the medical model has taken hold successfully but only truly messed up people need therapeutic help (and also, meditation is considered prayer to a non-Christian god so it's no good). The problem I am trying to solve is how to translate some of the insights I have gained from transformational work into a language others can benefit from. The question I have for you: Do you know of communities online where you/your relatives/etc. go to discuss difficulties so that I can better understand people's language and mental models around these topics? I have found this approach to be helpful for me in the past in understanding more of how people think before speaking to them directly. Thank you!

Suggested topics for communities: addiction, financial difficulties, unemployment, loneliness, family conflicts, others relating to mood, anxiety, or trauma. Thank you!
posted by namesarehard to Human Relations (21 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Also, are there large online sites I'm not familiar with that are more frequented by, for lack of a better descriptor, red-state America?
posted by namesarehard at 8:04 AM on July 14, 2019

I live in a midwest red state. A few things:
1. Prayer, a deeply personal relationship with God, redemption
2. Valuing endurance and personal strength
3. On the other hand, therapy culture really is everywhere. Some of it has circulated through Oprah and the popularizing effects of Oprah. People who don't go to therapy, who live in areas where there is not a lot of psychotherapy, but who are younger than say 50 or 60 understand and commonly apply psychological models of thinking about problems now, along with #1 and #2.
4. A lot of people caught up by the state for various transgressions are forced to do therapy types of interventions in a way that doesn't really happen as often with more privileged people, even those who have the same behaviors, from addiction to anger management to parenting classes. A lot of the therapy worldview is now a dominant, mandated model in the U.S.
posted by nantucket at 8:33 AM on July 14, 2019 [10 favorites]

I live in the border between two red states. Online, it's the same thing you could get just about anywhere else in the country, I'd assume. Vent to friends, find a site pertaining to the issue, internet advice columns, podcasts, that sort of thing. What specifically did you have in mind?

In person, people are doing daily meditation, journalling, spiritual retreats, individual therapy, group therapy, outpatient or inpatient hospitalization... there's a shortage of inpatient psychiatric beds, and definitely some specific therapeutic niches that need to be filled, but people are pursuing them.

Disclaimer: I work at a psychiatric facility, and practically everyone I know is either a counselor or mandatory reporter who knows how to refer to counselors. Hard to find people more open to the general concept of self-development than those depending on it to pay their mortgage...
posted by RainyJay at 8:40 AM on July 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

I grew up in the Midwest and just want to point out that "noncoastal" states are not monolithic. The town I grew up in was and is extremely liberal and accepting of therapy, meditation, etc. In most "red" states I would guess that many people are not far from a similar college town and have at least semi-local access to resources like therapy. (Also, Christian meditation has a long history...). As far as online resources, I don't personally think that there needs to be a separate category of resources than people would use online anywhere.
posted by pinochiette at 8:44 AM on July 14, 2019 [21 favorites]

Thanks guys, and apologies for any tone-deaf thing I said that sounds like lumping all non Californians together (facepalm)
posted by namesarehard at 8:47 AM on July 14, 2019

Peaceful/non-violent parenting communities generally integrate a lot of what I think of as "therapy" ethos into their discussions and advice. I've seen people make serious progress on things like disordered thinking about a child's eating, replicating parental patterns of constant yelling or excessive punishments, etc. Of course one has to already be on-board to a certain extent, since there's usually no tolerance for anything perceived as drive-by trolling, but "I want things to be different" and a non-hostile response to advice received usually suffices.
posted by teremala at 9:00 AM on July 14, 2019 [2 favorites]

“Centering prayer” may be a helpful search term for Christian-focused meditation. I’ve seen a few sites that say it’s evil because it’s meditation under a different name, but it’s gained some traction recently, at least in Catholic Churches. (My iPad won’t let me lower-case “churches” there.)
posted by FencingGal at 9:28 AM on July 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'd look into AA/NA/Al-Anon/CoDA or other relevant 12-step groups. There are other types of peer-support groups like this (grief support groups, single parent support groups, etc) but definitely AA/Al-Anon are the big ones. They seem to be acceptable, even popular with conservative Christian people. They can really fill that need of what people look to therapy for. There are lots of helpful readings that people can find through those groups too. I'd highly recommend Melody Beattie.

If someone is specifically dealing with PTSD symptoms they may find it more acceptable to seek therapy if they can get that diagnosis, because of the association with the military. Therapy is very well-documented/well-known as an effective treatment for PTSD among veterans (meds just don't do enough) and lots of people have heard about that.
posted by 100kb at 9:47 AM on July 14, 2019 [2 favorites]

Even coastal states are not monolithic. My family background is South Asian, and although we, like, invented meditation and yoga, these practices are actually not discussed on a regular basis, at least among South Asians I know, mostly graduate-educated, longterm US residents or their first-gen American kids. Many of the older generation had negative experiences with hippies in the 60s and 70s, so are really not on board with things like "self-development" and "finding yourself." Ironically, there is no shortage of South Asian new-age practitioners (Deepak Chopra comes to mind) but he's considered something of a sellout and/or pandering to White People Problems, depending on who you talk to.

There is a huge stigma about psychiatric illness in the South Asian community, although some in my generation are trying to push back with things like peer support networks, so things may change in the next 5-10 years. But in general, therapy is shameful, antidepressants only slightly less so. Psychiatric problems are not to be discussed outside the immediate family. One of my parents' friends had a short stay on inpatient psych many years ago, and it was treated as a major scandal in the community. It's still The Thing everyone knows about Auntie.

I don't know if that exactly answers your question, but if you want to know how one community talks about our problems, the answer is that we don't.
posted by basalganglia at 10:01 AM on July 14, 2019 [11 favorites]

I mean the joke about my non-coastal but still extremely old-school Democratic region is that the support group for life difficulty is called Everyone, and its meetings are at the bar.

And I mean, it is kind of true; friend networks are, I would say, substantially preferred to online networks. If a Chicagoan is getting the side-eye about antidepressants or meditation it is probably much more a function of their specific family culture than a regional thing. But the idea that how you talk about your problems is to grouse about them into a beer (maybe after grousing about them to a therapist, or maybe not), rather than into the Internet void, means I don't hear much of anything about online communities of the type you're looking for.

There is an enormous world of religious bloggers out there still, though maybe they are shifting to Instagram, and I do know some folks -- young religious moms and older conservative women chiefly -- who use those blogs and comment sections as a kind of de facto online community.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:27 AM on July 14, 2019 [4 favorites]

Facebook, Facebook, Facebook! Check out geography-specific groups, and then maybe narrow it down further. Like, in my area (pauses to consult Facebook): the Ohio Secret Babes Page, and the Cleveland Moms Group. So people who have something in common and might need support but aren’t centered around a specific modality or mental model. I can’t speak to those particular groups, mind you.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 11:01 AM on July 14, 2019

Is religion an option for you?

It depends very much on the church or even the individual. Some places definitely preach a sort of just world fallacy or a fixation on life after resurrection that does not sit well with me (especially when I don't particularly believe in their God or their resurrection).

But even as a non-believer, I've found Bible study tremendously rewarding. At least the one I used to attend, we took turns reading through the assigned passage. Often someone would have prepared a quick talk on the historical context and historical interpretations. Then we discussed its relevance to our own lives. Often this last part turns into therapy-in-all-but-name as people share various difficulties they're facing.

There are some remarkably kind, patient, and generous people in Bible study groups, if that's an option for you.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 11:49 AM on July 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

Therapy and meditation are individual models, and while the Appalachian families I know are big on self-sufficiency, there is also a strong community model: prayer groups and Bible study; the Elks or Rotary; church in general; and yes to whomever said NA and AA. Does your friend have a pastor?

(Also, just FYI, I'm Manhattan born and raised, classic true blue East Coast liberal and I hate meditation and think yoga can suck a dick. It's not a regional shortcoming, it's a perfectly valid opinion.)
posted by DarlingBri at 1:02 PM on July 14, 2019 [4 favorites]

You may find some ideas in this article about treating depression in poor countries. It's long, but toward the end it describes training "grannies" on a problem-solving model for treating depression that has found success by focusing on helping people identify their goals and the things that are preventing them from achieving them.
posted by snickerdoodle at 1:42 PM on July 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

Along the lines of out-group homogeneity that people have pointed out and in-group heterogeneity that others have mentioned:

I’m a super active me-fite, lived all over the USA as a highly educated professional
Scientist... and I think many of y’all say ‘seek talk therapy’ when it’s not especially warranted, useful or necessary. Sort of a rich white liberal ‘upper class with plenty of disposable income’ disease imo: regular folks lean on personal friends and family, and if that seems odd to you maybe you should reflect on that before you pay someone to listen to you.
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:06 PM on July 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

The problem I am trying to solve is how to translate some of the insights I have gained from transformational work into a language others can benefit from. The question I have for you: Do you know of communities online where you/your relatives/etc. go to discuss difficulties so that I can better understand people's language and mental models around these topics?

Are you equally prepared to translate some of the insights that these people have into a language you can benefit from? you've pre-decided that you have insights these people lack, and that the utility of gaining an understanding of their cultural practices and mental models is so that you can be better positioned to influence them. not to be influenced. this seems like an intention you might want to formulate after you understand them better -- when you have some grounds for believing that the flow of insight should naturally go from you to them -- not before.

what I know about 'noncoastals' in the most generalized possible sense is that they don't love attitudes like this.
posted by queenofbithynia at 8:42 PM on July 14, 2019 [11 favorites]

Also, are there large online sites I'm not familiar with that are more frequented by, for lack of a better descriptor, red-state America?

patient forums for medical problems not easily dealt with, particularly those causing long-term intractable pain, draw people from all over the place all desperate to share information that can't be found elsewhere. patient forums for back injuries, just for instance, will lead you indirectly but inexorably to all the addiction struggles, financial issues, mental health worries, family conflict, loneliness, and despair you could ever wish for.

likewise, the facebook rotator cuff surgery support group is a window into a whole world of middle-aged middle-American sufferers from a culture I am not, let us say, a natural-born member of. there's a lot of jesus-praising and positive thinking going on in there. but fear and misery with an american flag decal on it is not actually much different from my own apart from aesthetics, and my fine college education did not provide me with any fancy coastal coping skills that were notably lacking in the psyches of the regulars. unfortunately they didn't have any rustic wisdom to enlighten me with, either. the big division wasn't geographical or cultural so much as between the people with good and lousy health insurance and good and lousy surgeons. and people with no health insurance at all don't tend to show up in those places.

edit: oh and veterans/veterans' spouses/VA health complaint forums, I bet you could find a lot of the people I think you are thinking about there.
posted by queenofbithynia at 8:57 PM on July 14, 2019 [2 favorites]

The issue you are seeing is not necessarily because a place is a red state. It is probably prevalent in rural places. I grew up in a small-ish town, and one of the few therapists (possibly only one) in town was the mother of my friend. In an environment where everyone always seems to know everyone else's business, do you risk going to the town's only therapist?

As people have said, a lot of the available therapy has large components of Christianity in it. Is that type of therapy going to be effective for people who do not believe in it?

I saw some pretty large mental illnesses go untreated because the treatment was often worse than the illness. The two people that I know who have had to be in-patient for anything had terrible experiences. One facility was definitely not sharing cards and gifts from the family with the patient. Another friend was admitted to a facility where she was sure that her mother had been assaulted.

Here is a thread on an LSU fan page that has a Health and Fitness section. It looks like some people have been to therapy, and some people do yoga.

Here is a thread on a tractor forum (that I am not very familiar with) about mental health.
posted by Friendly Craft Person at 6:03 AM on July 15, 2019

As above, red state / non-coastal probably isn't the best way to frame this question - there will be different answers depending on access to mental health services, religious affiliation, race, national origin, family networks, and probably other factors that aren't coming to mind.
posted by toastedcheese at 9:58 AM on July 15, 2019

Follow Queer Appalachia on Instagram. I have learned so much from them about possibilities for direct action and harm reduction.

There's a hospice in my rural Ohio county with a dedicated building that offers all kinds of support groups, advertised on their LED sign. I don't know how heavily used it is, but it's very visible. Groups for parents who have lost infants, spouses who have lost partners, AA and addiction support, etc. etc.

Church is a big resource for a lot of people out here - since I'm not christian, I don't have access or feel comfortable with it, but I can tell it is a major source of community. There are a bunch of different denominations and I imagine they all approach things slightly differently.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 11:37 AM on July 15, 2019

Having lived throughout the South as an adult, I've always found that Methodist churches usually operate a counseling service, often housed separately from the church, that employs certified counselors, using modern counseling techniques and mental health strategies. Most integrate spiritual and counseling approaches though some are open to the wider community and deemphasize the spiritual component.
posted by caveatz at 1:48 PM on July 15, 2019

« Older What grass bit me and how do I best deal with the...   |   Emergency prescription drug refill when you have... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments