Rural communities need mental health support too - Rosita Novak

People living in rural areas are at a disadvantage when it comes to mental health. Access to mental health services is a significant issue, forcing people in remote areas to travel long distances with limited public transport. This is especially true for people in marginalised groups seeking support based on their lived experience, due to the lack of services available in remote areas. With rising costs of living and the highest petrol costs in 17 years, we need to ask ourselves what impact this will have on people in remote and rural areas in Scotland that need access to mental health services.

Cost of living and rising fuel costs are having a significant impact on individuals and families across the UK. Fuel poverty is particularly prevalent for those in rural areas as people are forced to rely on more expensive and less regulated sources of gas, as well as incurring higher travel costs to services and employment opportunities, often with no public transport available. This will have a knock-on effect for people accessing services to support their mental health and could have a detrimental impact on their wellbeing.

There is no denying the need for mental health support in rural communities. 92% of farmers under the age of 40 suggest poor mental health is the biggest hidden problem facing farmers today. Living in rural and remote areas often means people can feel socially isolated, contributing to stress, anxiety and depression which can cause poor mental health. Despite this, there is a significant lack of funding for mental health in rural areas. Funding is allocated according to need and the higher percentages of people registered with serious mental illnesses, which are in well populated areas like cities. This leads to people in rural areas who need mental health support being unable to access services within a nearby distance.

It is vital that we increase service visibility in rural areas to prevent people from only seeking support once they reach crisis stage. Ensuring people have access to information, services with short waiting times and mobile outreach support is key to preventing mental illness in rural communities. We also need to assess the range of services available, ensuring they meet everyone’s mental health needs. Young women, people who identify as LGBTIQ+, black and ethnic minority groups, and people experiencing homelessness and substance use issues have an increased likelihood of experiencing mental health challenges.

A person’s identity does not determine whether they have mental health issues, but experiences such as social exclusion, discrimination and social inequality can be contributing factors. For people living in rural areas, this increases the likelihood of experiencing isolation and perceived lack of community support. In a 2022 survey by LGBT Youth Scotland, just 28% of rural-based young people rated their local area as a good place to be LGBTI as compared to 62% of urban-based young people. When asked if they feel lonely all/most of the time, 46% of rural young people said yes. When assessing the impact of rural mental health, we need to consider the impact on marginalised groups and the availability of mental health support out with cities.

When services are not visible, people will not believe they exist. This has led to a perception and stigma in rural areas that people are left to deal with their mental health challenges on their own. Support in Mind Scotland want to break the silence on rural mental health and increase the visibility of services available so that people can access support before they reach crisis stage.

Support in Mind Scotland offer a range of mental health services in rural areas. To find out more, visit the ‘Services’ page on our website and select your area.

Rosita Novak, Highlands Locality Manager for Support in Mind Scotland www.SupportinMindScotland.org.uk

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