Jenna Setterberg is smiling a lot these days, which is noteworthy when you realize that for much of her life, she was unable to smile. “At age 15, I started having symptoms of depression. At age 17, I was diagnosed schizoaffective. I started to see a psychotherapist, then they put me on medication. As I got older, the doctors said I had Bipolar II. I could not even force myself to laugh when I tried to fake being happy. My depression prevented me from maintaining friendships and going to college.” Her illness lead to hospitalization in a locked facility. After she was released, she returned to Monterey County to stay with her father. Her social worker connected her to Avanza, a case management and therapy program for Transitional Age Youth (ages 16-25) with mental illness. Jenna was eventually referred to Interim’s Shelter Cove transitional housing program. Shelter Cove’s supportive structure helped Jenna a lot. At Shelter Cove, she met friends and attended groups that taught her skills in healthy relationships. They also taught her anger management, how to live independently, and how to cope with the symptoms of her illness. “Growing up I was always living with my family, so I was sheltered and never lived on my own. I am a daddy’s girl. I wasn’t ready to live on my own.
After living at Shelter Cove for a year and eight months, Jenna moved to shared permanent housing operated by Interim. Now she has her own room, shares the common areas of the house, and has support from a counselor. She is proud of her independence. “I’m here for a reason. I’m not hiding it, I’m here to tell my story. I feel like I’m not alone, like I’m struggling with what you’re struggling with. I want to show people they’re not alone. You can conquer anything. I’ve learned to be independent and to stick up for what’s right. My favorite song is “Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield. It’s about your life story and how it keeps going on, turning the page, making mistakes and learning from them.”
Jenna is telling her story too, by volunteering with Interim’s Success Over Stigma (SOS) program. SOS provides training in public speaking for Interim clients, and a forum where adults with mental illness can share their personal experiences with the community-at-large. “I feel like every time I tell my story I have a glow around me, and I’m an inspiration to others.” These days, Jenna’s glowing smile is contagious.