Mental Health IS an Issue, Even in Rural Communities

mental health awareness month

Distinct mental health differences are evident when comparing rural and urban residents. While mental illnesses have a similar prevalence in both environments, the circumstances and access to treatment look different. According to The National Rural Health Association (NRHA), rural residents face more obstacles in obtaining behavioral health services.

Based off these findings as well as the CHNA results, Manning Regional Healthcare Center is spreading awareness of the challenges of receiving mental health access in rural areas.

“We know that mental health is one of the main concerns of our rural communities based off our latest Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA),” shared MRHC Education Coordinator, Julie Hodne, RN. “Based off those results we will prioritize addressing mental health concerns over the next three years.”

Studies have also shown that the risk of suicide is higher in rural areas, making it that much more vital that individuals have access to and seek out help. The Rural Health Information Hub states that the suicide rate is near twice as great in the most rural areas of the U.S. compared to the most urban areas.

“Everyone deserves access to quality mental health care,” said Senior Life Solutions Program Director, Janet Brus, RN. “Helping as many people as possible get the help and treatment they need is what we work towards every day.”

Finding a solution starts with identifying the problem. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) highlights the following barriers to receiving mental health care in rural areas:

  • Lack of privacy
  • Lack of culturally appropriate treatment – Accommodates clients’ beliefs and practices, preferred languages, individual and family histories, differences in symptoms, and preferred treatment approaches.
  • Lack of services – Even if rural residents desire mental health treatment, they commonly have few services and providers in their areas. They may have less access than urban residents to evidence-based practices (EBPs).
  • Lack of practitioners – Rural areas have few behavioral health practitioners, especially those qualified to provide specialty treatment or EBPs. More than 75% of all U.S. counties are mental health shortage areas, and half of all U.S. counties have no mental health professionals.
  • Evidence-based practices – Some research shows that behavioral health facilities in rural areas are more likely than their urban counterparts to be independently operated and less likely to collaborate with a university to train providers on EBPs. At the same time, most studies that support EBPs are not conducted in rural areas or with rural populations.

Solutions

Advances such as telehealth have helped increase access to mental health care for rural Americans, making treatment more obtainable. Along with these technological improvements, another effort we can all partake in to help improve access to mental health is simply talking about it. Talking about mental health can open the door for people to feel more comfortable and less afraid to seek help.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, research shows that knowing or having contact with someone with mental illness is one of the best ways to also reduce stigma. Individuals speaking out and sharing their stories can have a positive impact. When we know someone with mental illness, it becomes less scary and more real and relatable.

If you need more mental health information, education, or would like to discuss support, please contact your primary care physician at (712) 655-2072. For those 65 and older, call Senior Life Solutions at (712) 655-8262. Or call the Manning Recovery Center at (712) 655-2300 and talk to a professional. To learn more about mental health and available resources visit mhanational.org/may. To learn more about how you can become an advocate this Mental Health Awareness Month and join the national campaign, visit www.nami.org.

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Reverse those Winter Blues

Amy Hull, licensed therapist at MRHC for Senior Life Solutions

By: Amy Hull, LISW (Therapist with Senior Life Solutions) Amy Hull, licensed therapist at MRHC for Senior Life Solutions

As we continue into the long days of winter, I am reminded that so many of us face challenges: some because of the cloudy, cold, and grey days which trigger Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Others because they face depression year-round and find the absence of loved ones difficult while having to pillage through snow, ice and frigid cold to travel. In addition, we are also navigating the protocols and restrictions of COVID, feeling political unrest, and learning how to make socially sensitive changes so that all members of our nation feel that they are accepted and valued. Much of this causes confusion, uncertainty, and isolation (spiritually, emotionally, and physically) for all ages, from our developing youth to the mature members of our community.

Knowing the signs and symptoms of clinical depression is helpful so that you can seek additional help from your primary care physician or contact a therapist/psychiatrist to manage the need for psychotropic medications.

Clinical Depression includes five of the following symptoms:

  • Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating or thinking
  • Feelings of worthlessness, helplessness, hopelessness, sadness, or numbness
  • Irritability
  • Reoccurring thoughts of death
  • Diminished interest in once pleasurable activities
  • Significant weight loss or overeating
  • Sleeping too much or too little

It is important to catch these symptoms early. If you are having at least two or three symptoms, ask for help immediately rather than trying to manage it alone and waiting. Seeking assistance early can prevent depression from progressing, and it can resolve the issue much quicker than if you allow the symptoms to become entrenched and multiply.

When faced with symptoms of depression, I encourage my patients to do the opposite of what depression is telling them. Feelings of depression often suggest that you should stay isolated, avoid socializing, eat more or less, sleep more, or avoid activities you once did. However, it is important that we connect with our friends and family using any means available including phone calls, Facetiming, sending care packages, or hand-written cards. One can’t help but feel good by engaging in activities that they once enjoyed, serving others through volunteer work, or simply helping a neighbor.

A few ways to counteract depression and sadness include helping others, exercising, interrupting or stopping negative thoughts, and getting fresh air and sunshine. These options will help you find the joy you once had both in activities and in interacting with others.

MRHC Raises Awareness of Seasonal Affective Disorder

comforting an elderly lady

If you been feeling distressed and overwhelmed with feelings of sadness as the seasons change, it may be more than just the winter blues. Manning Regional Healthcare Center’s Senior Life Solutions team wants to raise awareness of seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

“Many of us have days that we don’t feel like ourselves and sometimes the winter months can enhance those feelings,” said Janet Brus, RN, program director for Senior Life Solutions at MRHC. “Be aware of how you are feeling. If you normally get up and perform your normal daily activities and now find yourself staying in bed longer, not getting dressed, or avoiding activities that normally bring you pleasure, you may be experiencing seasonal affective disorder.”

Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a form of depression typically triggered during the fall and winter months when there is less sunlight. According to the American Psychiatric Association, those with SAD experience mood changes and symptoms similar to depression. Common symptoms include low mood and energy, fatigue, sleep difficulty or excessive sleep, loss of interest, little motivation, and weight gain resulting from overeating and carb cravings.

“To help boost your mood, try participating in activities that will keep your mind active such as taking a walk, reading, and staying healthy and hydrated,” advised Brus. “It is important to be kind to yourself, as sadness touches all of our lives at some point. However, depression can cause significant problems if not addressed in a timely fashion.”

If you are struggling with depression or feel that you are showing persistent symptoms of SAD and it is affecting your daily functioning, Senior Life Solutions could help.

Senior Life Solutions is an intensive outpatient group therapy program designed to meet the unique needs of senior adults living with symptoms of age-related depression or anxiety, dealing with difficult life transitions, a recent health diagnosis, or the loss of a loved one. The program staff include a board-certified psychiatrist, licensed therapist, a director and registered nurse, and other healthcare professionals dedicated to the well-being of seniors.

The Senior Life Solutions area at MRHC was recently renovated and expanded to include a dedicated group therapy meeting room with state-of-the-art audio-visual capabilities that allow for patients to join remotely. Dedicated offices were also created for the therapist and psychiatrist to meet one-on-one with patients.

“With our new space we are able to accommodate even more sessions. We care about your health and encourage you to ask for help if you are experiencing these symptoms,” said Brus.

If you or a loved one need support or want to learn more, call Senior Life Solutions at (712) 655-8262.

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