Isolation, individualism make mental health a sensitive topic for rural populations; churches and religious groups form a trusted core.
By Michael Holton, firstname.lastname@example.org
Last month I wrote about the mental health aspect of living in small rural communities and the lack of mental health care. This is nothing new to the people who live in rural America, nor is it new to the mental health professionals. Why is this such a difficult topic to bring to the table?
As I have often pointed out, living in small rural communities brings with it a set of rural cultural values. Most individuals living in rural America hold stereotyped views regarding mental illness, psychotropic medication, or mental health care in general.
It is unclear why this stigma is more pronounced in rural areas, but factors such as insufficient resources, isolation, and the value of autonomy may lead to some answers. In farming/ranching rural communities, an overriding sense of individualism demands we pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and solve our own problems.
The first aspect of addressing rural mental health is to make sure to address rural first and then mental health. Too often providers address mental health in rural areas as a subset of addressing mental health in general. This simply is not true.
On an urban or larger scale, the provider for mental health may well be the local, state, or federal government. This provides a barrier in rural areas, and distrust is prevalent. The outlet for relief can come from institutions that are already trusted.
Religious groups and churches form a fundamental core of unity and trust in small rural communities. Pastoral counseling is widely regarded as an alternative in mental health care and has been effective.
Churches can address rural mental health in a holistic manner and can reach several age groups in one setting. Where ethnic populations reside, trust becomes even more important, and the church can be the conduit in which rural mental health care can be provided.
Nearly 60 million rural Americans experience rates of mental illness. Many of these people rely on collaborative and cooperative efforts to help them cope. Next month we will look at how some community groups address rural mental health in their own communities.
for more information post a question or comment here or contact
John Crabtree, email@example.com
Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.