Mental Health in Rural Areas

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ruralA 2005 study conducted by the Minnesota Department of Health reported that as much as 40% of rural women had depression compared to 13-20% of urban women. With such a high population of women experiencing depression, the hope is that mental health care services would be abundant in these areas.  A recent Twin Cities Daily Planet article, however, examines the truth of service availabilities.

Author of the article, Meg Reid, reports that Minnesota is facing a significant shortage of mental health providers, forcing patients to have to travel longer distances to access mental health care. Rural residents often lack the necessary health insurance so that even if they are able to access care, they cannot afford it. On top of everything else, social stigma makes it even harder for people to go so far out of their way to access care.

One solution that has seen some success in Minnesota is telemental health – long-distance counseling via telephone or video conferencing. Telemental health services not only make it easier for people to access mental healthcare by removing transportation barriers, but also by eliminating the issue of stigma. A patient can access these services from his or her home without risking being publicly stigmatized for having a mental illness.

While telemental health is one possible solution to the lack of mental healthcare in rural communities, it is still not perfect. Even with the innovative technology, the shortage of mental health practitioners is still a significant problem. Web access is also not consistent across rural Minnesota, creating barriers in acquiring telemental health services from the internet.

Reid, concludes, “Rural mental health care is in danger. Between the shortage of practitioners, the culture of stigma, and the fractured emergency mental health system… it is clear that we are failing to appropriately address this issue.”

Visit the National Association for Rural Mental Health website

Join us in our effort to end the stigma of depressive disorders



Photo courtesy: © Brett Stoltz

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