Rural Areas Lacking Mental Healthcare, Suicide Prevention
Accessing mental healthcare can be challenging. You need a provider who offers the specific care you need, who clicks with you on a personal level, and fits with your finances. Even if you live in a city with lots of choices, the task of finding the right care can seem overwhelming. If you live in a rural area where choices are few and far between, it can feel impossible. But you can find access to mental healthcare in rural areas.
Mental Health in Rural Areas
For those who struggle with mental health but live in more remote regions, getting help may require slightly less conventional methods than calling up a local psychiatrist’s office and making an appointment. The University of Michigan’s Behavioral Health Workforce Research Center explains that there is a significant shortage of professionals in the psychiatric workforce. This shortage has led to mental health disparities in rural areas.
For those who struggle with mental health but live in more remote regions, getting help may require slightly less conventional methods than calling up a local psychiatrist’s office and making an appointment.
Even the area of the country with the highest ratio of psychiatrists to population, the District of Columbia, only has 50 psychiatrists per 100,000 people. Meanwhile, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming only have about seven per 100,000. And Idaho only has five!
In 2018, the entire state of Wyoming, the 10th largest state by size, only had 42 psychiatrists. And Alaska, the largest state, only had 78. Let’s take a look at what these numbers mean for the people who live and work in these areas of the country.
Farmers and Suicide
It turns out we have the least support where we need it the most. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide rates are “significantly higher” among those working in agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting industries. Other industry groups with high suicide rates include mining, oil and gas extraction, and construction. Along with farming, these are all jobs that are highly concentrated in rural areas.
So why is there a connection between farmers and suicide? There are several possible reasons why farmers struggle with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. Life in rural areas can be isolating. You work long hours and may not have neighbors nearby. You don’t have coworkers and may rarely leave your property or see people other than your immediate family.
Farming also comes with a lot of stress. While you may enjoy the freedom and independence of being your own boss, this responsibility also brings with it the inability to control your business’ success based on weather, an uncertain market, and financial challenges.
And most seriously, when you need personal help, it may seem hard to access. Mental health disparities in rural areas mean farmers, miners, construction workers, and people who just want to live a quieter and simpler way of life pursue these careers and lifestyles at the cost of easy access to mental healthcare.
Mental Health and Substance Use
Drugs and alcohol also contribute to high suicide rates and reduced mental health in rural areas. The Journal of Rural Health reported that drug overdose deaths in rural areas now surpass rates in urban areas. Substance use can stem from untreated co-occurring mental health concerns. In turn, it worsens co-occurring mental health symptoms.
Treating drug and alcohol addiction is an essential part of comprehensive mental healthcare. However, as with general mental health, one of the greatest challenges for those in rural communities is the lack of local treatment resources.
Access to Mental Healthcare in Rural Areas
You have options if you live in a rural area and struggle with depression, anxiety, addiction, or other mental health concerns. First, make sure you aren’t overlooking a nearby source of professional help. The Meadows Outpatient Center has multiple locations around the country and continues to grow each year, so we or other providers may be closer than you think.
If you live in a rural community, the simplest solution may be virtual outpatient services.
Look for local resources. MPRNews explains that many rural communities now provide workshops that teach people how to identify and reach out to a loved one who is struggling. Some communities offer peer support groups, and others offer educational presentations about mental health and how to help yourself or others. Look for outreach and education opportunities in your community, and you may be surprised by what is available.
And if you live in a rural community, the simplest solution may be virtual outpatient services. Through MBH Connect, our virtual IOP, treatment is as close as your phone or computer, no matter where you live. And it works!
If you need access to mental healthcare in rural areas, or wherever you live, reach out to us at The Meadows Outpatient Center. We can walk you through your options for yourself or a loved one and help you find the local, online, or national resources that best fit your unique recovery needs.
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