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Rural Missourians often have little access to mental health care

Getting access to mental health care can be a challenge for anyone who needs it, but this is especially the case for people in rural parts of Missouri. And you do not have travel far away from a city to run into an area with a small handful of professionals providing mental health services to the local population.

For example, KWMU-FM recently compared the numbers of providers in Warren, Franklin and Jefferson counties versus in St. Louis City. While the St. Louis has 789 psychiatrists, counselors and therapists in a city of about 318,400, Jefferson County has 221,400 residents but just 150 mental health providers. Franklin County has 85 providers for 101,800 residents, and in Warren County, there are just 11 providers for its population of 33,000.

Just because there are few mental health care providers in those counties does not mean there are not people who need such services. Those few professionals are often swamped with callers looking for appointment, according to the director of Mental Health America of Eastern Missouri. And driving to St. Louis for sessions is not always an option.

This disparity in access to care is probably impacting rural Missourians’ ability to deal with mental illness. The state Department of Health found that, between 2001 and 2011, the suicide rate in rural parts of the state rose twice as quickly as in urban areas.

Telespsychiatry can help close the distance between providers and patients by allowing counseling sessions to talk place through video conferencing.

Besides struggling to get the care they need, many people living with mental illness must stop working, at least for a while. During this time, Social Security Disability benefits can help make up for lost income.

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