Resources for the mental health crisis in rural America

Posted on 03/18/22 11:44:am Resources for the mental health crisis in rural America


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Oftentimes assumed to be big city issues, a recent report is shedding light on the impact of mental health and addiction in rural communities. According to the study, “Impacts of COVID-19 on Rural Mental Health” by the American Farm Bureau Federation:

  • More than half of rural adults (56%) and farmers/farmworkers (58%) say they are personally experiencing more mental health challenges than they were a year ago.
  • Farmers/farmworkers are 10% more likely than rural adults to have experienced feeling nervous, anxious or on edge during the pandemic (65% vs 55%).
  • The percentage of farmers/farmworkers who think social isolation impacts farmers’ mental health increased 22% since April 2019.

“When you think something like 20% of people live in what’s considered ‘rural America,’ there’s reason to raise awareness and concern,” says Dylan Murray, MD, psychiatrist at Rogers in Appleton.

Special challenges in rural America

People living in rural communities face special challenges when it comes to getting help for their mental health.

“The main concern people talk about is access to mental health care resources. This seems to be gaining attention over time, but it’s still a major problem,” explains Dr. Murray.

A report from the National Institute of Mental Health says:

  • More than 60% of rural Americans live in areas with a shortage of
    mental health professionals
  • More than 90% of all psychologists and psychiatrists and 80% of
    social workers are employed exclusively in metropolitan areas.
  • More than 65% of rural Americans get their mental health care from
    primary healthcare providers.

“A silver lining from the pandemic, though, is the use and efficacy of mental health care provided through telehealth” says Dr. Murray. “President Biden is proposing to work with Congress to ensure coverage of tele-behavioral health across health plans and support appropriate delivery of telemedicine across state lines which would really help access in rural communities,” he says.

Dr. Murray says besides access to care, there’s economic stress, and the tendency for the society at large to push rural health concerns to the sidelines.

“Many rural areas have struggled economically, and this has come more into focus since the recession and the pandemic. We all know stress worsens mental health,” says Dr. Murray. “There’s also been a lack of engagement with rural communities. At times they are forgotten or marginalized when governments and organizations are planning for how to deliver services. Access isn’t just a clinic—it’s also about having devices and adequate internet service to make telemedicine a viable option,” he explains.

Dr. Murray says the tendency for people in rural America to be self-reliant poses yet another challenge.

“These are generally self-sufficient people who are used to solving problems through hard work and determination. When it comes to mental health problems, that isn’t enough,” Dr. Murray says. “Meaningful change can happen when governments and healthcare organizations recognize the issue and engage the communities to reduce stigma and offer solutions.”

Mental health resources and support

Rural Minds, Inc - a nonprofit that aims to end the suffering, silence and stigma around mental illness in rural America.

Ag State of Mind - creating a place where we can help break the stigma regarding mental health in agriculture featuring original podcasts and links to mental health resources.

Farm Aid - provides immediate and effective support services to farm families in crisis.

Farm Crisis Center - has resources to help farmers through stressful times, compiled by the National Farmers Union.

Farm State of Mind - the American Farm Bureau’s online directory of resources for farmers, ranchers, and their families who are experiencing stress and mental health challenges.

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP)

Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA)

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

Call 800-767-4411 or go to to request a free screening.