The CDC reports 43.4 million adults suffered from some behavioral health issue in 2015 alone. Overwhelming numbers of Americans will, at some time during their lives, confront a mental health challenge. It may be related to depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, or perhaps a result of circumstances like grief over a loss or a life change.
With all these people in need, just imagine for a moment that there was no psychiatrist or psychologist anywhere around, not to mention a specialist who these millions of people would feel comfortable with entrusting their needs. Hold that image. This is precisely the disturbing picture for many in Rural America.
The numbers tell the story. A new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that nearly 2/3 (65%) of non-metropolitan counties don’t have a psychiatrist while almost 1/2 (47%) of non-metropolitan counties are without a psychologist. These numbers become more frightening when one understands the critical link between inadequate mental health care and other crises such as drug abuse and suicide.
For Many, Viable Options Don’t Exist
Many clinical psychologists practicing in rural communities have come to the depressing conclusion that there just aren’t enough options; in some areas, no options at all. Even when those limited options exist, people have to travel to reach them. Those mental health workers who exist are almost exclusively generalists, not the specialists that so many people need. The bottom line is that most people are just left on their own.
Another devastating problem is that mental health care for most people in rural communities is considered to be a last resort. The whole notion of preventative mental health care is unheard of. In practical terms, this means that a problem is only treated when it becomes a full-blown crisis.
Clinicians Are Overwhelmed
Until this point, we have focused on the client. However, there is another dark side to the problem – the heroic therapists are also suffering. Many rural clinicians claim that their frustrations are endless. The resources such as shelters, hospitals and support groups that exist in metropolitan areas are generally nowhere to be found in Rural America.
The result is that the professionals need to shoulder the entire burden of mental health care themselves – a Herculean feat that most of them aren’t qualified to do. Even supplemental facilities that do exist often face the continuous threat of being closed or scaled down due to the ugly fiscal realities of many small towns.
The Vicious Cycle Keeps Getting More Vicious
Don’t think that failing to solve the particular mental health problem is the end of the story. Often, these problems spiral into worse problems like overdoses and depressions that take a substantial toll on quality of life and finances as the situation becomes more complicated from not being addressed at an earlier stage.
Online Mental Health Therapy to the Rescue!
Until recently, there didn’t seem to be much hope of ever arresting this devastating problem, not to mention turning it around. But the advent and growth of online mental health therapy can potentially change all that. Through the marvels of technology, a venue has been created that can provide top-quality mental health care from literally anywhere through a laptop and webcam.
The dearth of mental health resources in rural communities is no longer an obstacle to providing top-quality care for those who need it most. Aside from the benefits of keeping costs to a minimum and the flexibility, specialists from anywhere in the country (or world) can be just a click away. As the popularity of online mental health therapy continues to grow, the mental health crisis devastating rural communities may finally be on its way to being solved.