Mental health in Minnesota’s rural and farming communities
Twenty percent of Minnesota children experience challenges when it comes to their emotional well-being and development. Living in a rural area can exacerbate these challenges due to an increased difficulty in accessing care. That is why Avera Health, a health system in Minnesota, and Southwestern Mental Health Center are working to improve access to mental health care through school-based services.
Half of all adults who experience mental illnesses start displaying symptoms by age 14, but it takes an average of eight to 10 years for them to get treatment. School-based mental health programs are an accessible way to help kids get the care they need, by meeting them where they are.
Avera Health and Southwestern Mental Health Center serve over 200 students throughout 10 school districts as part of their school-based services. They estimate that about half the students they treat would not have access to care without this programming. Christine Mann, LADC, LICSW, MSW, counselor and social worker with Southwestern Mental Health, understands the unique opportunity of being accessible in a school setting. “Instead of them coming to our office, we actually have an office at the school. Going to the school we are able to see more kids and usually do it in a shorter amount of time,” she said.
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Undiagnosed and untreated mental illnesses can impact a young person’s development and growth. School-based services are an effective way to make mental health care a normal and accessible part of a child’s life. Alison, a family participant in the Avera Health and Southwestern Mental Health program, saw her son benefit from school-based services. “I think it’s really impacted our family greatly,” she said. “Before he started seeing Christine and being in therapy, he would have a rough day at school, he’d come home and he would have a rough day at home. He didn’t know how to tell us what he needed or how he was feeling. It makes me feel better that I was able to help him and put him with somebody and a program that would help him.”
Minnesota’s hospitals are partnering in rural communities to support programs to make mental health care accessible for all Minnesotans. To learn more about how Minnesota’s hospitals are working to provide needed access to mental health treatment and create healthier communities, visit mnhealthycommunities.org/mental-health-in-rural-minnesota.