Mental Health in Rural Communities
College students across the country are struggling with their mental health, and students in rural communities face a unique set of challenges. With millions of students in rural areas or from rural areas, this concerning issue is becoming a priority focus for many student services and health professionals.
Challenges of the Rural Student
Despite the many benefits that students enjoy while living in a rural community, it is critical to address the needs and barriers that these students may encounter. For example, rural youth are less likely to enroll in college after high school than their urban and suburban peers. Many of these students who do pursue higher education are more likely to enroll in community colleges, which may not always be able to provide the mental health support resources that larger universities in metro areas can. Suicide rates also tend to be higher in rural communities.
According to the National Rural Health Association, Americans living in rural areas experience reduced accessibility and availability of mental health professionals, as well as a greater stigma with regards to seeking out mental health support. Although many colleges offer resources like counseling, these general challenges in rural areas extend to campuses as well. A survey of BetterMynd counselors revealed that their rural patients seem to face more difficulty than their urban patients with regards to transportation, food insecurity, housing stability, substance use, and more.
Supporting Rural Communities
Although this is a complex and often overwhelming issue to tackle, there are a few tangible ways we can better support students. Learning more about the specific needs of students in rural communities is a great first step. It’s important when doing so that internal awareness of biases be considered. There are a lot of misconceptions about rural students and communities so it’s important to be mindful of disparities and intersectionality.
Students often hear about mental health resources through their college or university. Administrators should ensure that this communication and outreach continues. Additionally, these resources should be both visible and accessible to all students.
Upswing recommends checking out our recent webinar about Extending Mental Health for Holistic Student Support in Rural Communities. Hosted by BetterMynd’s Kate Wolfe-Lyga, this great professional development opportunity explores some of these topics more in-depth.
The importance of providing nontraditional methods of mental health support cannot be understated. Students at Upswing’s partner institutions enjoy the benefit of free mental health modules within our wraparound student services platform. These self-service videos are private and available 24/7, allowing students to seek the specific information they need whenever they need it.
Additionally, we have recently partnered with BetterMynd, a mental health company that helps address many of the specific challenges we’ve discussed in this post. While rural students encounter issues with accessibility, availability, and stigma, online counseling eliminates many of these barriers. Students are able to schedule online appointments with counselors who fit their preferred demographics at any time, so they can find appropriate professional help regardless of their busy schedules or intersectional identities. The discrete nature of teletherapy prevents students from having to physically navigate to a campus or medical office, which helps reduce the stigma of seeking this kind of support.
If you would like to learn more, you can always reach out to us to learn about how Upswing can support students at your institution!
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