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Rural Mental Health

Provided by Rural Health Information Hub

There is a significant need for mental health services in rural America. According to the Results from the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables, 19.1% of residents aged 18 or older of nonmetropolitan counties had any mental illness (AMI) in 2017, approximately 6.8 million people. In addition, 4.9%, or nearly 1.7 million, of residents of nonmetropolitan counties experienced serious thoughts of suicide during the year.

While the prevalence of mental illness is similar between rural and urban residents, the services available are very different. Mental healthcare needs are not met in many rural communities across the country because adequate services are not present. Providing mental health services can be challenging in rural areas. According to WICHE's Rural Mental Health: Challenges and Opportunities Caring for the Country, the following factors are particular challenges to the provision of mental health services in rural communities:

  • Accessibility – Rural residents often travel long distances to receive services, are less likely to be insured for mental health services, and are less likely to recognize an illness.

  • Availability – Chronic shortages of mental health professionals exist and mental health providers are more likely to practice in urban centers.

  • Acceptability – The stigma of needing or receiving mental healthcare and fewer choices of trained professionals who work in rural areas create barriers to care.

Where can I find mental health statistics for rural populations?

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration(SAMHSA) is the primary source of information on behavioral health and provides an annual survey of detailed data by geographic location on the prevalence of several behavioral health measures in their annual Results from the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables.

Topics with data applicable to rural mental health include:

  • Mental illness in the past year

  • Co-occurring mental illness with substance use disorder

  • Serious mental illness

  • Mental health treatment/counseling

  • Unmet mental health treatment

  • Serious thoughts of suicide

How can our community take action to prevent suicides?

The Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC) is a premiere source of information on the topic of suicide prevention. The following resources and tools can be helpful to rural communities working on suicide prevention efforts:

You can also contact the Suicide Prevention Resource Center for assistance. SPRC can connect you with people, organizations, and resources in your rural community, state and nationally and provide technical assistance and training on suicide prevention.


Get Help

If you or someone you know is experiencing signs of distress, please reach out to a mental health professional or get confidential, free support and text LOOKUP to 494949 or chat online here.

If you live in Indiana and need help finding a behavioral health provider, visit Find Help or call (800) 284-8439.


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