A crucial aspect of increasing mental health awareness is disseminating information on the facts and what can be done to help those affected. What does this mean for residents of Bandera County? According to data from the 2017 National Survey of Drug Use and Health, 19.1% of residents aged 18 or older living in non-metropolitan counties have some type of mental illness. In total, this adds up to a staggering 6.8 million people who may suffer from common depression to more serious issues. As a further demonstration of the need for better rural mental health care, 1.7 million residents of those non-metropolitan counties experienced serious thoughts of suicide within a single year.
There are three primary reasons rural residents do not reach out and ask for help: accessibility, availability, and acceptability. Rural residents may not have easy access to mental health services because many mental health providers are more likely to practice in more densely populated urban areas. Moreover, mental health has long been a stigmatized topic in all population groups, and this is certainly true for rural America where neighbors interact more often with one another and the strong, independent spirit associated with rural living belies feelings of emotional need and seeking help from others.
Suffering in silence should not be an option. When not adequately addressed and treated, behavioral health issues can wreak havoc on other aspects of personal well-being and physical health. Studies clearly show that these effects can negatively impact physical, social, and financial stability. Since 2016, we have provided integrated behavioral health services that work hand-in-hand with our primary care services to improve patient’s mental health. Professional counselors meet with patients on each day that the Clinic is open. Results have shown conclusively that these sessions equip Bandera Country residents with skills to alleviate self-defeating messaging and create a pathway toward better physical health. These transformative changes ripple outward to build a more positive environment for their families, coworkers, and the community at large. Acknowledging common human emotional frailty and seeking advice toward a solution is a step toward change for the better.