Rural Mental Health

By Tasha Howard, Extension Assistant Professor

farmer in front of tractor

Spring is known as the season for growing. In rural areas this is often marked by seeing plows, tractors, farm workers, and baby animals out in the field. It can be a very busy time for workers in the agricultural industry and that can bring a lot of stress. Stress, if left unmanaged, can oftentimes turn into a mental health illness, issue, or crisis. (20131 Stress, 2022) This is frequently seen in rural areas of Utah and among the agricultural population. There are a variety of reasons for this. According to Rural Health Info, there is a health disparity, or difference, between rural mental health and mental health in urban areas. This disparity does not always show up in the prevalence of mental health illnesses and suicide rates, but there is a disparity among such things as treatment, recognition, and acceptance of conditions. The good news is, there are things you can do to help reduce barriers and stigma and build a community of mental health supporters, no matter where you live. 

Barrier number 1

Availability of services. According to Rural Mental Health Information Hub, there is a lack of available providers in rural counties. This includes treatment centers, therapists, and support services. You can help improve availability of services by learning about the available resources in your community.

What you can do: You can take prevention education classes to learn how to recognize signs of a mental health crisis how to connect those around you to mental health services quickly and easily. You can learn about services, resources, and providers in your area by attending health fairs, community events, and other public events.

Barrier number 2

Stigma against mental health which includes not accepting mental health issues as real and not accepting help, even though there may be a struggle (VeryWellMinds, 2022).

What you can do: You can help reduce stigma, which in turn can lead to more people accepting and seeking help by talking about mental health. You can start a conversation about mental health and work to spread positivity and hope through your conversations. You can be conscious of the language you use. This can be done by focusing on the words we use and not unintentionally or intentionally using language that is negative when talking about mental health (i.e. crazy, weirdo, psycho, etc.).

Barrier number 3

Accessibility of treatment and help. This is like availability of services but goes more into how easily someone can receive help. In rural areas, even areas where services exist, there is a disparity that exists in how easily these services are accessed and utilized (Rural Health Information Hub, 2021). 

What you can do

You can become a responder to mental health in your area by taking classes such as Mental Health First Aid, Question Persuade Refer (QPR), and Naloxone trainings so that you are prepared and able to help if you are ever in a situation where critical help is needed. By having more members of the local community connected, a network of support and help is created so that more people can receive help as needed.

Mental health is an issue that everyone can take a part in solving. Whether you live in a rural area where there may be unique stressors to your lifestyle, or an urban area, there are things you can do to reduce barriers and help those around you receive help.