Rural Mental Health


Rural Mental Health



Focus Area for the Mountain Plains MHTTC

The rural mental health vision for the Mountain Plains MHTTC is to support increased access to providers of mental health services for the more than 60 million Americans living in rural communities. To achieve this, the Center develops and promotes training and technical assistance which supports the rural mental health workforce and reduces barriers to mental health treatment for rural residents. The Center also provides specific resources and training for agricultural communities. These resources are available on the page dedicated to Farm Stress and Mental Health.

Goals to Address Rural Mental Health

The Mountain Plains MHTTC is addressing the barriers of rural mental healthcare accessibility, availability, and acceptability by developing and providing training and technical assistance that:

  • Reaches students, entry level professionals, and established providers in rural communities.
  • Highlights the appropriate use of technologies for the existing rural mental health workforce including teleahealth. 
  • Covers effective practice in rural communities. Many established models for delivery of mental health care do not account for the unique challenges presented by rural communities. Providing focused training on the realities of practice for rural mental health providers can help increase the satisfaction of the patients being served by these providers.

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Rural Mental Health Resources

There are several resources available that provide summaries of rural mental health concerns, up-to-date data visualization, and toolkits for addressing rural barriers to mental health services. Some of these resources include:

Addressing Rural Behavioral Health Workforce Shortages: Lessons Learned from a Rural Psychology Internship Initiative
This brief describes an initiative focused on developing rural psychology internship opportunities in an effort to grow the rural workforce. These internships have proven effective for behavioral health workforce development and may apply to other health disciplines as well.

Behavioral Health in Rural America: Challenges and Opportunities
This 2019 report describes the prevalence of behavioral health disorders among rural populations as well as the barriers associated with the provision of prevention, treatment, and recovery services. Following discussion of the need, the report presents rural models as well as policy options.

Behavioral Health Provider Geographic Distribution and Reimbursement Inequities
This cross-sectional study examines the relationship between reimbursement and behavioral health provider geographic distribution and seeks to understand how Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement for behavioral health providers may limit service delivery.

Behavioral Health Service Provision by Primary Care Physicians
This project seeks to understand which behavioral health services primary care physicians currently provide for their clients and how often they do so.

COVID-19 Crisis Puts Pressure On Farmers' Mental Health 
Side Effects Public Media address the mental health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on America's farmers as they face additional stress and financial instability. Mental health advocates worry about the effects the pandemic will have on farmers and their families, including the potential for increased suicides and post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Critical Crossroads: Pediatric Mental Health Care in the Emergency Department
The number of children seeking care for a mental health crisis in an emergency department is on the rise. With often limited mental health services, hospitals in rural areas bear an excessive burden. This toolkit can better prepare hospital emergency departments to manage and coordinate care for children and adolescents in mental health crisis. You can tailor the resources to your specific needs, patient population, and community. This is a product of the Health Resources and Services Administration.

Cultivating Resilience in Rural Communities Toolkit 
This toolkit, developed by the Upper Midwest Agriculture Safety and Health Center was developed to support conversations on stress and mental health in the agricultural community.

National Association for Rural Mental Health (NARMH)  
NARMH is a professional organization that serves the field of rural behavioral health. NARMH's membership includes the entire spectrum of the rural mental health community, including consumers, family members, practitioners, administrators, educators, researchers, and policy makers. A unifying force for NARMH has been a focus on rural concerns, which includes a commitment to rural people and those that serve them. This belief that rural comes first has allowed NARMH to concentrate its efforts to improve access, availability, acceptability of behavioral health and substance abuse services and research in rural and frontier areas.

Pain in the Nation Update: Alcohol, Drug, and Suicide Deaths in 2018 
This report, provided by the Trust for America's Health details updated rates of deaths related to drugs, alcohol, and suicide for 2018. The report breaks down data by race, age, and regionally, including rural versus metropolitan areas.

Promoting Positive Mental Health in Rural Schools
This guide provides resources specific to addressing the unique mental health training and technical assistance needs of schools serving rural and remote communities. Underscoring the purpose of the document was a recognition that schools, communities, and families often lack comprehensive treatment and services for children and youth. That is particularly true in rural communities.

Rural Health Information Hub (RHIhub) Mental Health in Rural Communities Toolkit
This toolkit provides an overview of mental health as well as an introduction to some of the unique challenges facing isolated communities. Additionally, this module will provide insight into important background information needed to implement programming and improve mental health in rural communities.

Rural Health Information Hub (RHIhub) Rural Mental Health Topics Page
Here you can access resources, current data, news, events, models and innovations, and funding opportunities specific to rural mental health.

Rural Health Research Gateway Mental and Behavioral Health Topic Page
The Rural Health Research Gateway is funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Gateway provides access to all of the research products of the federally-funded Rural Health Research Centers. Access all of their recent research on rural mental and behavioral health.

Rural, Remote, and Resilient: How to Build Better Outcomes Outside of America’s Cities
Developed by the Master of Public Health (MPH) online program from Baylor University's Robbins College of Health and Human Sciences, this product discusses health disparities between metro and non-metro counties and offers strategies on how to collaborate to foster better health results in rural areas.

Rural/Urban Disparities in the Utilization of Health and Behavioral Assessments/Interventions in the Fee-for-Service Medicare Population 
Developed by the Rural and Underserved Health Research Center, this brief compares the utilization of Health and Behavioral Assessments and Interventions (HBAI) services by Medicare recipients in rural and urban areas. The brief includes data on HBAI providers, service units, beneficiaries, and average utilization rate in rural and urban counties.

State Incentive Programs that Encourage Allied Health Professionals to Provide Care for Rural and Underserved Populations
This study describes allied health incentive programs at the state level as described during 30 semi-structured phone interviews with key informants from 27 states and information found online.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
Leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation. Works to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America's communities. Part of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

The Hidden Crisis in Rural America
This short documentary discusses rural mental health access issues and how rural residents with a serious mental illness are both more likely to encounter police and to live without treatment.

Understanding Rural Communities: Perspectives on Rural Mental Health
In 2017, the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health began to take a hard look at ways to work and learn alongside rural communities to promote conditions that support mental health. In this 20 minute podcast, you will hear from Dennis Mohatt, a national expert in the field of rural mental health, as he discusses how the unique characteristics of rural communities affect mental health and the implementation of mental health programs.