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Rural Mental Health

Information about mental health in rural communities

Whereas the rates of mental health disorders remain fairly consistent across the US, rural communities face unique challenges when it comes to identification and treatment of mental health issues. 

  • More than 60% of rural Americans live in areas where there is a mental health shortage
  • More than 90% of all psychologists and psychiatrists, and 80% of MSWs, work exclusively in metropolitan areas
  • More than 65% of rural Americans get their mental health care from their primary care provider
  • The mental health crisis responder for most rural Americans is a law enforcement officer who likely lacks adequate training

How is Rural Mental Healthcare Unique

  1. Accessibility: people living in rural areas often must travel long distances to be able to meet with mental health specialists and mental health benefits may not be covered by insurers; insurance (rather than clincian) often dictates what services subscribers can access
  2. Availability: many rural townships/communities rely on primary care providers to identify and treat mental health conditions due to the lack of specialists/resources close to them; though better than nothing, primary care providers lack the training and expertise to manage disorders well
  3. Acceptibility: in small communities, people often lack an understanding of even basic mental health issues, and those who demonstrate signs of mental illness and/or seek out help face stigma and rejection

Ways that Rural Communities are Seeking to Overcome

  • Prevention: raising awareness and bringing information/services to where unidentified sufferers are
  • Telehealth: technology allows increased access to services and providers
  • Integration in to primary care: more often, specialists are co-locating and even collaborating services to create a "medical home"