Mental Health in Rural Communities
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and Kearney County Health Services’ Senior Life Solutions is spreading awareness of the challenges of receiving mental health access in rural areas.
While mental illnesses are similar in both rural and urban environments, the circumstances and access to treatment look different. The National Rural Health Association (NRHA) tells us that rural residents face more obstacles in finding behavioral health services. As a result, distinct mental health differences are seen rurally compared to urban residents.
Studies have also shown that because the risk of suicide is higher in rural areas this makes it that much more vital that individuals seek out and have access to help. The Rural Health Information Hub states, “suicide rate is near twice as great in the most rural areas of the U.S. compared to the most urban areas.”
Figuring out a solution starts with figuring out the problem. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) highlights the following barriers to receiving mental health care in rural areas.
- Privacy – “Individuals living in rural locations commonly identify a lack of privacy as a barrier to receiving treatment.
- Culturally appropriate treatment – “Culturally appropriate treatment accommodates clients’ beliefs and practices, preferred languages, individual and family histories, differences in symptoms, and preferred approaches to treatment.”
- Services – “Even when individuals living in rural locations want treatment, they may have few services and providers in their areas, and they may have less access than urban residents to evidence-based practices (EBPs).”
- Practitioners – “Rural areas have few behavioral health providers, particularly ones who are qualified to provide specialty treatment or EBPs. More than 75 percent of all U.S. counties are mental health shortage areas, and half of all U.S. counties have no mental health professionals at all.”
Evidence-Based Practices – “Some research shows that behavioral health facilities in rural areas are more likely than their urban areas to be independently operated and less likely to discuss with a university to train providers on EBPs. At the same time, most studies that support EBPs are not conducted in rural areas or on rural populations.”
Recently, amazing solutions such as telehealth have helped increase access to mental health care for rural Americans, making treatment more obtainable. Along with these incredible technology advances, one thing we can all do to help improve access to mental health is simply talking about it. In addition, talking about mental health can open up the door for people to feel more comfortable and less afraid to seek help.
The American Psychiatric Association says, “Research shows that knowing or having contact with someone with mental illness is one of the best ways to reduce stigma. Individuals speaking out and sharing their stories can have a positive impact. When we know someone with mental illness, it becomes less scary and more real and relatable.”
For more information, you can contact Senior Life Solutions team at 308-832-3400 Option 4.
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