Rural Behavioral Health 

Self-reliant, stoic, and hardworking. Often, these characteristics are used in the form of positive praise and pride. As depression and suicide rates increase in rural areas, these are also the traits that lead individuals to be more prone to experience increasing isolation, anxiety, depression, and suicide. With over 30 percent of rural adults battling with depression and anxiety and Farmers and ag workers dying by suicide 3.5 times higher than those in other careers, it’s an indication that rural individuals are facing increasing challenges.

Farm and Rural stress can be much different than the stress of their urban counterparts. Farm and rural individuals tend to be isolated geographically, and many work alone. Rural individuals may have less access to social supports, limited community resources, and limited access to needs. Farming itself tends to be unique. Most of the elements that lead to success are widely out of the farmer’s control: economics, weather, disease, pests, and interest rates. As behavioral health professionals, we understand that the increased focus on things outside of an individual’s control can tremendously impact the amount of stress and depression one experiences. Left unmanaged, these worries and stress can lead to increased depression, feelings of low self-worth with the inability to control these factors, feelings of hopelessness, isolation, and suicidal ideation.

Try one of these effective and quick strategies to boost positive feelings and promote well-being using these research-based skills.

Utilize Gratitude: Every day, write down three good new things. These can be people, places, activities, or anything you are grateful for. Practice for 30 days. Coming from the Positive Psychology Approach, this simple daily activity begins to rewire our brain to focus on gratitude and reduce time spent on critical and negative lines of thinking.

Use supports: If you’re feeling isolated or stressed, ask for support. It’s a great way to boost our mood and feelings of attachment in challenging times. Take your children to do chores with you, run to town with your spouse, or spend some time with your friends. Chances are, you’ll leave the social interaction feeling lighter and recharged.

Set boundaries: Saying yes can often feel like a midwestern genetic trait! However, at certain times in our lives, it can be unhealthy and unbalancing for effective stress management. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, overbooked, or just not invested in helping, say no. Saying no isn’t rude. It’s prioritizing your own health and helping you to be your best for you and your loved ones.

When you see someone struggling, encourage them to reach out for support, whether it’s to friends or professionals. If you are experiencing high levels of stress, overwhelm, or other concerns of emotional or behavioral changes, they are treatable, and you don’t have to do it alone. Southeast Kansas Mental Health is working hard to remove those barriers by offering Ag/rural aware Providers, offering same day services at our Open Access Clinics, increased hours to evening and weekend availability, and remote telehealth services.

Jeanette Rogers, LMLP

Southeast Kansas Mental Health Center