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Rural Health Information Hub

Public Education and Awareness Model

Public education can help raise awareness, improve understanding, and support individuals at risk of or living with mental health conditions. Public education is valuable for reducing stigma associated with mental health conditions and fostering a positive mental health environment. Educational approaches to reducing stigma often begin with trainings that deliver factual information about mental health. Effective trainings use social contact with people with lived experience who can personalize the information delivered. Trainings may be structured as formal classes or informal conversations within the community. Positive changes in the perception of mental health often start with individuals; moves to families, workplaces, and schools; and ends with community leaders who are then equipped to continue community education efforts, including programs and events, surrounding mental health.

Education and awareness efforts can improve mental health literacy within the community. When people can comprehend information about mental health, they are more likely to make informed choices and seek support when needed. Improved mental health literacy can also decrease the stigma around mental health, making people feel more comfortable to reach out for help. Public education and awareness efforts that focus on mental health literacy can empower individuals to take positive steps toward mental well-being, creating a community that values and supports everyone's mental health journey.

Examples of Rural Public Education and Awareness Programs for Mental Health

  • I Got You: Healthy Life Choices for Teens (IGU) is an example of a community mental health outreach program providing mental health education to students in rural east central Mississippi. The goal of the program is to decrease behavior-related office discipline referrals in schools and provide general education about mental health and well-being.
  • Rural Minds aims to promote mental health in rural America. Rural Minds is a resource for public education that offers a wide range of programs and learning opportunities. Available learning opportunities include webinars, FAQs, newsletters, fact sheets, and news relating to rural mental health.
  • Plumas Rural Services offers mental health and wellness trainings and evidence-based certification courses, including Mental Health First Aid, Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST), safeTALK Suicide Alertness Training, and Connect the Dots on Mental Health. Upon request, they also design workshops to meet specific workplace or organizational needs such as Mental Health Awareness for court-appointed special advocate (CASA) volunteers.

Implementation Considerations

Community figures and peers play an important role in supporting public education and awareness for mental health. Rural communities should consider implementing trainings for trusted community figures, leaders, and peers that provide guidelines, strategies, and approaches for handling discussions and responding to people in a mental health crisis. Community figures, leaders, and peers should be knowledgeable and can provide support and share resources that make it easier for people to seek help. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides resources for what community and faith leaders can do to promote mental health awareness and education.

Our Rural Suicide Prevention Toolkit provides additional examples and implementation considerations for mental health and suicide prevention campaigns.

Program Clearinghouse Examples

Resources to Learn More

Awareness and Practices of a Rural Community Regarding Mental Health Problems
Evaluates rural communities' mental health awareness and the factors contributing to mental health issues.
Author(s): Jayan, V. & Vishwas, S.
Citation: Cureus, 15(6)
Date: 06/2023