Living in a rural area, even going off-the-grid, has many advantages, not the least of which is affordable real estate. However, you sacrifice many modern conveniences for the privilege of fresh air, sunshine and a little room to roam.
One of them shouldn’t be access to quality mental health resources, but distance often serves as a barrier to treatment. Fortunately, technological advances make it more possible than ever before to get the help you need. Here are five tips for accessing mental health resources from a rural area.
1. Look to Telemedicine
Innovation often emerges from challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic brought untold heartache but also new ways of living, benefiting human beings and the planet. Carbon-slashing telecommuting is one example — another is the explosion of telemedicine. The use of remote services expanded from 1% to 80% in some areas. Medicare utilization of telemedicine services increased by roughly 63%.
Telemedicine helps those in rural areas access mental health services by providing emergency intervention for acute mental health crises, such as suicidal ideation, acute agitation or adverse reactions. Trained professionals can access the individual, evaluate the need for inpatient psychiatric services and calm situations that don’t require drastic measures.
While suicide hotlines have long existed, many are staffed by trained volunteers, not medical professionals. Many people who contemplate self-harm avoid using such services out of fear of involuntary commitment. Most states have laws dictating their right to lock such people in inpatient facilities when deemed a danger to themselves or others.
However, retaining everyone who says, “I wish I was never born,” can do more harm than good. For example, hourly workers struggling to make rent might find their problems exacerbated by inpatient commitment that deprives them of their way to keep a roof over their heads. Such individuals might feel more comfortable talking to a medical professional they trust to evaluate their unique situation instead of rushing to commit.
2. Talk to Your Insurance Company
If you’re one of the fortunate Americans with health insurance coverage, talk to your carrier. They are your best resource for what telemedicine resources you have available, and they can advise you on what actions to take to get care. Must you meet with your PCP for a referral, or can you go directly to the couch?
Furthermore, you may have more choices than you know. Some insurance companies have partnered with various mental health apps to defray some costs. Your employer is another resource — does your employee assistance program include mental health services? Even smaller organizations that can’t afford comprehensive benefits sometimes cover fees.
3. Search Online for Support Resources
Even if you are one of the many uninsured Americans, you might find the mental health support you need from a rural area. There are multiple apps on the market, each with various price points and support levels. For example, some basic free models include guided meditations and mood diaries to help track when you feel depressed or anxious and provide immediate intervention. Other, more costly versions offer unlimited text support with a licensed provider.
The virtual world is also the place to find support groups for nearly any disorder. People with chronic illnesses often battle comorbid depression and anxiety, both from the stress of their condition and the financial ramifications. Various advocacy groups provide online support forums and informative articles that serve as lifelines when you feel like the only one in the world struggling through your issues.
4. Supplement with Holistic and Alternative Approaches
Your mind and body share an intricate link — what happens to one affects the other. That’s one reason why alternative therapies often work, although they require time and dedication to do their magic. You can reap deep healing, especially if your physical aches and pains result from unhealed trauma.
Consider the following treatment modalities, which science supports for improving mental health:
- Yoga: Yoga is the ultimate way to explore your mind-body connection. Energetic practices like Ashtanga burn off excess cortisol that can influence stressful feelings. Slow, gentle practices like yin nurture your body, letting you feel the intimate ways stress plays with your muscles, encouraging them to relax gently.
- Music: The next time you watch a movie, pay attention to how the producers use the musical score in the background to influence your mood — building excitement with loud drums and calming you with soothing flutes. Choose tunes that always make you smile and increase the effects by dancing — physical activity reduces cortisol.
- Exercise: Your mental state sets off biochemical changes in your body that exacerbate your emotional symptoms, particularly anxiety. Your body produces adrenaline and cortisol to help you face threats, but they cause adverse effects when they accumulate to harmful levels. Exercise enables you to lower these neurochemicals as nature intended.
- Art: Expressing your feelings through art can be a powerful processing technique. Let yourself sit and experience your emotions as your pen or paintbrush flies over the page or canvas.
- Journaling: Journaling is another potent way to process big feelings. The trick? Create a sacred space where you can write uninhibited from other people’s judgments. Stay away from typing your thoughts into an email with that pesky send button ever-present — invest in a gorgeous paper model or create a private file on your computer.
Accessing Mental Health Resources From a Rural Area
Living in a remote area has several advantages. Improved access to mental health services isn’t typically one of them.
However, advances in technology and telemedicine have made it more possible than ever for everyone to receive the help they need. Follow the above tips for accessing mental health resources from a rural area.