Content warning: Suicidal ideation
It certainly is fitting Ramona Wink ended up working in mental health. It’s a personal topic for her, so intricately interwoven into her life — from her own experiences to watching loved ones struggle.
Her story starts in high school, during the height of the 1980s farm crisis. Low crop yields and mountains of debt, paired with sky-high interest rates, led to a record number of farming bankruptcies in Iowa and across the Midwest.
Wink witnessed her farming family struggle financially. A nearby farmer shot and killed his banker, his wife and then committed suicide. It was so bad for Wink’s father, who was struggling with depression, that he walked into the barn one day and contemplated ending his life. He decided against it and walked back into the house to ask Wink’s mother to take him to get psychiatric help.
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“It was a really scary time,” said Wink, who is now 56. “My dad was in the psych ward at the University of Iowa Hospital for a couple months. I saw him maybe once a week. And we grew up in small-town Iowa [Columbus Junction], where everyone knows everything. So that was hard. There was even more of a stigma back then than there is now.”
“I’m passionate about helping people who have gone through depression and anxiety, especially rural Iowans, because that’s my story."
Mental health issues affected Wink as well. She developed an eating disorder as a teenager. It boiled over after her college years. For 12 years, Wink only ate her own food, even when traveling the globe for her career in banking. One suitcase was for clothes — the other was for food. She also woke up at 2:30 a.m. every day to excessively exercise, trying to burn what little calories she consumed the previous day.
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In the summer of 2001, Wink was dangerously thin. She realized something needed to change. Wink credits God for saving and changing her life. She relied heavily on faith, and that pulled her through the dark times, providing a level of comfort.
“It was really a breaking point for me,” Wink said. “I knew I couldn’t make the changes on my own so I turned to God.”
Wink also had a calling to help others. Wink worked in ministry for 15 years before changing careers again, becoming a mental health counselor in 2019. She works for 515 Therapy and Consulting in West Des Moines and uses her own experiences to relate to clients. Wink is also a motivational public speaker who shares real-life stories from the stage about the importance of mental health.
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“I’m passionate about helping people who have gone through depression and anxiety, especially rural Iowans, because that’s my story,” Wink said. “In rural Iowa, people don’t want to talk about mental health. There’s still a tremendous stigma about it.”
Wink highlighted the shortage of therapists around the state, particularly in rural parts. But she wants those who are seeking help to know that it’s a brave decision to reach out — and that she’s proud of them for taking that courageous step.
“Thank you for being vulnerable and vulnerable enough to share the journey with someone else,” Wink said. “Hope and help are available. Better days are ahead.”
Make It OK is community campaign to reduce stigma by starting conversations and increasing understanding about mental illness. Start by learning what a mental illness really is. Then, find out what to say and not to say when someone opens up to you. You can also help others by sharing your own story to help people know they aren’t alone. Learn more about how you can get involved at MakeItOK.org/Iowa.