Mental Health In Rural And Remote Areas

I grew up in a small village in the English countryside and I feel very fortunate to have enjoyed a childhood where I could be baking in my kitchen before running straight across to my friend’s house in my wellies to borrow more sugar. We had a fantastic community that felt safe from a lot of the troubles in the wider world. However, when it came to looking after our mental health, we came across challenges that most people in the larger cities would rarely experience. As we are all feeling a little isolated at the moment, I feel this is a relevant time to share my knowledge about mental health in rural and remote areas.

Influences

There a number of reasons why someone may experience challenges with their mental health and living rurally can certainly factor into this. Friendship groups in remote areas often lack in diversity, so if your situation differs from the people around you, it can be easy to feel alone. Physical isolation is also a key factor, as limited or no public transport can make you feel trapped, and with only a few clubs and events to attend, it’s easy to get bored – which can result in turning to unhealthy habits to fill the time. Of course, the positives of managing your mental health remotely is a large amount of physical space, with the option to spend a lot of time outside and in nature. Rural living often has a slower pace of life and you are usually surrounded by familiar faces. Most locations will bring factors that can have positive and negative impacts on your mental health. A lot of these could be beyond your control, but it’s still useful to try and identify what these factors are. Pinpointing things that impact your mental health can help you understand what is beneficial to your wellbeing and what you need to avoid or change.

Lack of Resources and Knowledge

Remote communities often have a small population, and fewer people, often resulting in fewer resources which, in many circumstances, are underdeveloped. The rural family setup could also be more traditional and out of touch with current knowledge of mental health. It can feel incredibly daunting to be the position where you feel you are not receiving the standard of support you need and though it is possible to travel to a city for additional services, it’s still important to feel supported in your everyday life. Despite potentially lacking in resources and knowledge, most people and services do want to learn and improve to provide you with the best support possible. Understand that it may not be ideal but take the time to speak to your family, school, and health centre, have the confidence to make suggestions, take them on your mental health journey with you and learn together.

Tight-knit Community

Rural living often comes handinhand with tight-knit communities and though this has fantastic perks, at a time when you need space, it can feel very suffocating. A lot of people in these communities have known each other most of their lives, so people can pick up on changes in your mental health rather quickly. Before you know it, people talk and it can sometimes feel like everyone knows about your challenges before you’ve even had time to accept them yourself. It’s also a possibility that you know your doctor personally which can make you feel awkward talking to them about your mental health. It’s useful to remember that, in most cases, anyone discussing your mental health is probably doing so out of concern and for awareness to ensure that everyone is supporting you. However, anything you discuss with your doctor is confidential, regardless of whether they know you or your family outside of work.

Overall, I loved living remotely and the refreshing country walks, life-long friends, and trusting community that has been invaluable in aiding my mental health journey. However, rural living sometimes brings a few extra challenges when it comes to getting support. Wherever you live, you are entitled to the help you deserve and if we continue to talk, educate, and develop our resources, our support systems will improve.

For more information on mental health support in rural and remote areas check out: https://www.yanahelp.org/index.html

This blog was written By Bex Betton.