Prioritize Your Mental Well-Being

May 5, 2023

Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Often, people think of the hospital as a place to visit strictly for ailments and conditions of the body, like illnesses and injuries. However, if left untreated, mental health issues can be debilitating and even fatal. For patients in rural areas, this phenomenon is exacerbated by several conditions.

Help is right here in your own backyard. This Mental Health Awareness Month, learn about the prevalence of mental health issues in rural areas and how you can get the support you need close to home.

Mental health statistics in rural areas

According to the National Institutes of Health, about one-fifth of the U.S. population — about 66.38 million people — lives in a rural area. Of that fraction, roughly 6.5 million people have a mental illness. Despite this high number, up to 65% of nonmetropolitan counties do not have psychiatrists, and more than 60% of rural Americans live in designated mental health provider shortage areas as defined by the Health Resources & Services Administration.

Reasons for the disparity

While the lack of specialized mental healthcare in rural areas plays a key role in the disparity between rural and metropolitan areas, the NIH reports other cultural factors may affect residents’ access to specialized mental health services. These factors can include:

Warning signs of mental illness

Mental illness can come in the form of many different conditions, including depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and more. Though each has its own set of symptoms, some warning signs are common between various illnesses. The American Psychiatric Association recommends contacting your primary care provider if you experience several of the following:

Don’t be afraid to reach out when you need help. Cathy Rigg, LCSW provides compassionate therapy and counseling services for individuals, families, and children at the Elmer Hugh Taylor Clinic, 100 W. 15th St. in Beardstown. To schedule an appointment, call (217) 323-2245. If you or anyone you know is suffering a mental health crisis, call the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by calling or texting 988.