KIMT NEWS 3 — Millions of Americans deal with this issue on a daily basis, but it seems the perception of it is not changing. The word “crazy” might come to mind, but these people are putting up the fight of their lives and are hoping you can understand it.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five adults will have some kind of mental illness episode this year. What does that mean? To find out, we talked to two people in our area who battle this disease.

“Then I would go to this pit, I called it hell where I couldn’t get out of, I would be so depressed and suicidal.”

It’s a war Jenna Benson is all too familiar with and has been battling for decades. While in her 20’s, holding down up to five jobs and getting no sleep, she decided to get some help.

“After doing some testing, they determined or gave me the diagnoses of bipolar and anxiety and PTSD; post traumatic stress disorder,” she says.

After that diagnosis, Jenna took medication, rode a roller coaster of emotions and ended up in the hospital more than 20 times.

“I was just either running, running, running, or I couldn’t get out of bed, couldn’t leave my house,” she adds.

“And it’s not like somebody can go in and get a blood test and then a doctor can read it and say oh yeah, it’s this and here’s the treatment that will work.  Unfortunately, it’s not like that with mental illness,” said Courtney Lawson, executive director of NAMI Southeast Minnesota.

Courtney tells us she understands what people like Jenna might be going through.

“I actually have a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. My perception of what that meant was that I was going to be kind of placed in a straight jacket and wheeled away and locked up and never heard from again,” she says.

Although that might sound silly, it’s a real concern for those suffering from OCD, depression, or anxiety. especially when it comes to what others think.

“They look at mental illness and say that person’s crazy or that person’s a lunatic or that person’s a little off and I don’t see that, I see this as people who have valid symptons that they can’t control on their own, that they need help with,” Jenna tells us.

It’s stigmas like those that keep people from getting the help they need.

“It’s something that is difficult to talk about, it’s something that’s difficult for ones that we know to acknowledge sometimes what is going on with us and provide support to us so we struggle with it on our own, but we don’t have that problem talking about I broke my arm skiing or ankle or something like that,” David Cook, Executive Director of Zumbro Valley Health Center says.

Places like Zumbro Valley and NAMI are scattered across north Iowa and southern Minnesota and are meant to be a beacon of light for those feeling like they are in the dark. “We realize that in a lot of different areas in different programs that we have here where individuals without those services would have, perhaps ended up in the emergency room or the hospital,” Cook mentions.

That’s where Jenna may have ended up again, but thanks to a mixture of therapy, medication, and support from peers has her feeling good. In fact, she tells us she is enjoying life. As for those struggling, “You are going through it and there is a point at which you come out and there will be light and you have to keep fighting,” Jenna says.

Another key item to point out is the difference between mental health and mental illness. For example, someone could have no mental illness but be having a bad day, so their mental health isn’t good. On the other side of the coin, someone with a mental illness could be feeling great and be having a good mental health day.

There are numerous resources if you are look for help including:


WellSource of North Iowa

Zumbro Valley Health Center

Suicide Prevention


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