Depression in Rural America

Academic Blog by: Jason Golec

Jason GolecJason Golec is currently a Junior pursuing a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. As a student Jason has earned many honors while also participating in a variety of Extracurricular activities such being a member of the School of Public Health's Student Advisory, the University of Michigan's First-generation College Student Advisory Board, and the University of Michigan Backpacking Club. He is also a former President of the Jurisdiction of Michigan for a youth fraternity named "DeMolay International".

Imagine you are trapped. You cannot seem to gain any sort of bearings. You have nowhere to go, nobody to go to, and no sense in how you may get out of this place.

Everyday there are people trapped in their own minds by their own negative thoughts. A intense tirade of self-loathing and negativity floods the mind causing people to lose their ability to function. Without proper treatment, individuals can be caught or trapped in this state of depression for prolonged periods of time.

Though over one quarter of the American population is affected by mental illness, many of us are hesitant to talk about it and how it impacts our lives. One of the most common mental illness identified in the United States' population by is depression.

For rural Americans, access to healthcare services is limited. This is due to a variety of reasons. The most prominent reason is the lack of variety and options within the healthcare infrastructure due to small population density. Patients have to travel farther distances to receive quality treatment compared to individuals in urban areas. Poverty is also more prevalent in rural America, reducing the opportunity for rural dwellers to initiate access to these services. Poverty has also been shown to be a key determinant for depression.

However, there lays a farther issue in regard to depression and general mental health. As a society, we are hesitant to talk about our mental health. Expectations to appear strong and emotionally resilient are apparent within our culture. There is a negative stigma regarding mental illnesses in our country. As a result, education about mental illnesses is very low and thousands of people suffer in silence. Due to all of the previous barriers, suicide rates have increased in rural America over the past decade. This emphasizes the call for more action.

As a country more funding needs to be allocated to rural health. More mental health care facilities and a greater, properly trained workforce will help build our nation's healthcare infrastructure and contribute to eliminating this healthcare disparity.

Moving forward, it is necessary for effective mental health interventions to be implemented in rural America. Recent research has shown that telemedicine can be just as effective at treating depression than in-person psychotherapy. Personally, I believe the approach to improving mental health is two-fold: First, innovative solutions to delivery mental health care in rural areas (e.g. convenient, cheap telemedicine or in-home therapy); Second, a cultural shift pertaining to changing perceptions about mental illness must be initiated.

This leads to my "call to action" for every individual that reads this blog. I want you to challenge yourself. One in four people will be affected by a mental disorder at some point in their lifetime. You have the power to initiate conversations about mental health. You have the power to encourage to seek treatment and become educated about their own mental health. Interventions and increased resources will mean nothing if people are either afraid or too uneducated to access them. It is important to recognize how much power we really hold when it comes to starting these conversations.