Mental health in Minnesota’s rural and farming communities
Minnesota’s rural communities are facing a mental health crisis, with rural areas having the highest suicide rate of any geographical area in the United States. Mental illnesses can impact anyone but living in a rural region can present additional challenges, such as limited access to mental health care, increased stigma and unique stress and isolation.
In 2017, rural areas in Minnesota had only one licensed mental health provider for every 1,960 residents, while metro areas had one mental health provider for every 340 residents. Minnesota’s hospitals believe all Minnesotans deserve access to the mental health care they need and support programs to make care more accessible throughout the state.
Craig Meyers, executive director of Des Moines Valley Health and Human Services in southwest Minnesota, believes that collaboration is necessary to meet the mental health needs of those in rural communities. “We still have all the same needs that a larger population has, so you need all the same services,” he said.
Minnesota’s agriculture community is experiencing the stress of increased mental health needs more than almost any other profession. Farming is a stressful occupation with long hours of exhausting physical work, financial uncertainty and much time spent alone. Financial strain is a significant contributor to depression and anxiety among farmers, with median net farm income at its lowest in many years, according to the University of Minnesota.
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Farmers have an abundance of responsibility, but many factors that impact their farms and livelihoods are out of their control – unpredictable weather and decisions of policymakers are putting an emotional strain on Minnesota farm families and have an impact on mental well-being. Farm owners and workers are three to five times more likely to die by suicide compared to other occupations, and those in the industry may be more likely to internalize stress and not know where to turn when feeling overwhelmed.
Minnesota’s hospitals are partnering in rural communities to provide needed access to mental health treatment and suicide prevention resources. To learn more about how Minnesota’s hospitals are working to make mental health services accessible and create healthier communities, visit mnhealthycommunities.org/mental-health-in-rural-minnesota.