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Solving Behavioral Health Challenges in Rural South Dakota

May 5, 2021 | Newsroom

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and Horizon Health Care wants to focus on a topic that affects many of our communities: behavioral health in rural areas.

Our communities we serve face many unique challenges, and that is especially true when it comes to mental and behavioral health. By identifying these challenges and dedicating ourselves to finding solutions, we can help our communities achieve optimal wellness.

Behavioral Health Challenges in Rural Communities

In order to better understand how rural mental health challenges are overcome, it is important to know what they are.

Many of the problems facing smaller, remote communities are the same that metro populations face. This includes the most common mental health diagnoses, such as depression disorders, anxiety disorders and bipolar disorder.

While the conditions diagnosed in rural areas are often the same as urban areas, the stressors and risk factors that impact these communities can be different.

The Rural Health Information Hub (RHIH) and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) identify multiple factors that can be problematic for individuals in rural areas.

Some of the most common factors that impact these locations are economic security, social isolation, community relations and demographic shifts. As the RHIH states, these can all be contributing factors to a higher level of suicide in rural communities.

Economic issues are particularly critical, as the U.S. Census Bureau says rural communities have a lower median income than urban areas. Rural economies are often more susceptible to changing economic conditions, too.

Agricultural and Farm Stress

One particular stressor related to economic security, as well as other factors, is agricultural and farm stress.

SDSU Extension defines farm stress as stressors that come from all aspects of the agricultural system.

Changing agricultural prices and weather conditions can impact farmers and ranchers across the state, and negative effects from these lead to tight financial situations and periods of increased stress.

Substance Abuse

Another factor that can affect rural communities differently from other areas is substance abuse.

Substance abuse has been a problem in many rural areas for a long time. According to the RHIH and SAMHSA, rural areas experience higher levels of binge alcohol use in youth and overall methamphetamine use.

And while the rates for drug abuse are typically higher for metropolitan areas, rural areas are more likely to lack the substance abuse rehabilitation resources they need to address these issues.

That is why Horizon is working to solve this problem, and other problems related to rural healthcare access.

Overcoming Mental Health Treatment Obstacles

The most important factor in treating and improving mental health is access to quality healthcare. Without affordable access, many will choose not to get help, which can make problems worse.

TeleHome Behavioral Health Services 

At Horizon, we focus on providing care to everyone in all of our communities, which is why we make our Behavioral Health Services available through TeleHome, our telehealth service.

Offering telemedicine in South Dakota helps those who live far away from behavioral health specialists receive the counseling and care they need.

Our providers are dedicated to making these meetings inviting and informational, with their ultimate goal to improve the quality of life for each of their patients.

Integrated Behavioral Health

Though it is often overlooked, improving mental health is a key part to maintaining overall wellbeing.

There is a link between mental and physical health, and having a poorly managed mental health condition can cause problems down the road.

For example, the Mental Health Foundation says that people with mental health conditions are less likely to seek care for diseases, and are at more risk for developing stress-related conditions, like psoriasis.

Because of this link, Horizon integrates behavioral health with physical care to ensure that all aspects of a patient’s well being is considered. By doing this, we can properly treat our patients and improve the health of our communities.

When to See Someone for Behavioral Health Services

It can be hard to know when to visit a professional for mental health.

Being aware of frequent and long-term mood changes is a good way to stay ahead of any potential problems, and seeking help and input from your family and support network can point out anything you may be unaware of.

If you do think your mental health is worsening, schedule a visit with your primary care provider.

Talking with your provider about your mood, energy, sleep and stress factors can help identify any sort of problems you are having and whether or not you need to see one of our behavioral health professionals.

We see everyone, regardless of their insurance or ability to pay. If you or a loved one need help, don’t hesitate — visit or contact one of our locations, and learn more about our Behavioral Health Services.

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