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Lee Formella

headshot of Lee FormellaLee Formella was diagnosed with bipolar 2 disorder, generalized anxiety, and complex PTSD after 20+ years of rock bottoms, blackouts, gambling, suicidal thoughts, self-harm, and failure.

Life was entirely about survival, not learning life skills, coping skills, or emotional regulation. In the 4+ years since then, he has found peace and stability through the help of his family, professional support team, education, and an incredible amount of self-control, hard work, and resiliency. Now, he aims to give back and help people find the strength to ask for help and receive their proper diagnosis as soon as possible with the hopes that others won't have to suffer the debilitating reality of battling a severe mental illness alone and without medication or support.

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He currently serves as director of education programs for NAMI Southeast Minnesota in his "dream job he never knew he wanted," sharing the voices of lived experience with mental illness in order to eliminate the associated stigma. He started his advocacy journey as a speaker for NAMI Fox Valley (Wisconsin), presenting for Crisis Intervention Training, the University of Wisconsin, University of Minnesota-Rochester, and for many other local organizations and community groups.

Lee is also a contributing writer for the International Bipolar Foundation and shares his story on Instagram @benefits_of_bipolar and hosts a YouTube interview series, also called "Benefits of Bipolar." It all started with his website,, launched in the midst of a crippling depression while feeling like he had nothing to lose. He was right, and has gained a phenomenal community, confidence, and a sense of belonging along the way.

He lives in Rochester, Minnesota, with his wonderful girlfriend and spends as much time as possible with his family including three siblings, three nephews, and one wonderful niece. Self-care is his second full-time job and believes that everyone, not just those living with a mental illness, can benefit greatly from his message of hope and an all encompassing self-care routine. He loves being outside, whether hiking, trail running, walking along the river, or going to the farmer's market.

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