While healthcare has made significant advances over the last several decades, there are still major issues with American healthcare that are affecting masses of people. One group of people that has been significantly underserved by healthcare management teams is those living in rural areas.
Scores of rural residents face a systemic lack of access to healthcare which negatively impacts their health outcomes in a variety of ways. One tremendously important field of care that rural residents typically lack is mental health care.
Unfortunately, rural residents disproportionately experience negative mental health outcomes as a result of this lack of accessibility to care. Understanding why it’s important to bolster access to these resources in rural areas is key to gaining a broader understanding of America’s current healthcare landscape.
Here is the importance of getting access to mental health care in rural areas.
Rural Residents Have More Mental Health Ailments
Though many are unaware, rural residents actually experience mental health ailments in greater frequency than their urban counterparts. This increased need for care mixed with a lack of accessibility has resulted in a severe problem for many areas.
Fortunately, an influx of mental health care options can turn the ship around and transform the way rural residents experience life. One specific tactic that is proving to be useful in this context is telemedicine, the practice of providing medical care through electronic devices.
Sadly, the practice of using telemedicine to provide mental health care has not yet become normalized in rural areas. One key reason for this is likely resistance on the part of rural residents. In many rural areas, the cultural identities of rural residents make it difficult for them to seek out mental health care.
However, greatly increasing access to mental health care in rural areas could help eradicate these stigmas and increase the number of rural residents seeking help. This highlights one of the main reasons that providing mental health care to rural residents should be a priority in healthcare today.
There is More Stigma Around Mental Health in Rural Areas
As has been noted, rural areas typically have more stigma associated with mental health problems than their urban city counterparts. This being the case, many rural residents refuse to seek out treatment until their symptoms become extremely severe or, in many cases, go their whole lives without ever being properly treated.
In many ways, this cultural bias against those with mental health ailments comes from the community health landscape found in most rural areas. These typically lack key resources, such as ample medical facilities and places where residents can be educated about mental health.
This reveals the striking need for more mental health care resources in rural areas and the significant impact that it would have on masses of rural residents’ lives. Ultimately, bolstering access to this type of care has the power to change rural attitudes and encourage more residents to seek out mental health care before their ailments become too severe.
Mental Health Ailments Can Cause and Exacerbate Other Ailments
While it’s common to view medical care and mental health care as separate realms, the truth is that they are deeply interconnected. In fact, mental health states can have a profound impact on our physical health in a number of significant ways.
One keyway that mental health states can impact one’s physical health is by weakening the immune system. This is especially common when individuals experience chronic stress and anxiety that isn’t treated.
Another significant way that mental health affects physical health is by causing individuals to engage in more unhealthy behaviors. This includes abusing substances and alcohol, sleeping irregularly, refraining from physical exercise, and eating an unhealthy diet. By engaging in such behaviors, one’s physical health will be greatly impaired.
In rural areas, many residents already engage in an alarmingly great amount of the aforementioned behaviors. Mental health ailments can further exacerbate this by causing rural residents to engage in them even more.
Fortunately, greater access to mental health care can help scores of these rural individuals change their understanding of their behaviors and engage in better ones. This being the case, it’s clear that increasing access to mental health care in these areas is extremely important in today’s healthcare landscape.
Ways to Increase Access to Mental Health Care in Rural Areas
From climate change-caused stress to difficult experiences, there is no shortage of factors in rural areas that can contribute to mental health illnesses. However, one of the most acute factors is a disheartening lack of access to mental health care resources.
Thankfully, there are a variety of ways to help bolster rural access to mental health care. Gaining perspective on ways to help the situation can give one more perspective on rural healthcare and the ways it can improve.
Here are ways to increase mental health care in rural areas.
As has been mentioned, telemedicine has the potential to be a potent solution to the problem of poor access to mental health care in rural areas. Particularly, telemedicine helps solve the problem of a lack of medical facilities and mental health professionals located in rural areas.
While telemedicine is being used to treat some people with mental illnesses, it has not yet become widely accepted by all rural residents. As such, many are hopeful that attitudes will shift in the coming years and that telemedicine will become more commonly utilized in rural areas for these purposes.
Incorporating Mental Health Care Into Medical Care
Some significant barriers standing between rural residents and mental health care are stigma and a lack of facilities. Though these are significant obstacles, incorporating mental health care into medical institutions can help solve both.
By having mental health care professionals stationed in places like clinics and hospitals, it would likely become less stigmatized for rural residents to receive mental health treatment. In addition, it would be easier to incorporate these services into pre-existing facilities rather than having to build new ones. Consequently, incorporating mental health services into medical care could help make this type of care significantly more accessible for masses of rural residents.
Rural Residents Deserve Ample Mental Health Care
While it’s great that many are concerned with getting more medical care resources for rural residents, it’s also important to provide these people with robust mental health resources. By prioritizing rural access to mental health care, many American communities can be positively transformed. As time goes on, many are hopeful that there will be new initiatives and solutions that emerge to help address this disheartening issue that currently affects scores of rural residents.