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Rural Health Information Hub

Mental Health Program Considerations for Rural Women

Research has shown that several mental health conditions are more prevalent among women than men. For example, the 2018 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that women were almost twice as likely to experience depression as men. Research has also demonstrated that women living in rural areas experience a higher rate of depression than the national average. Women living in rural areas face many barriers to mental health, including stigma and limited resources. Limited access to resources, such as women's shelters or domestic violence support, contribute to the mental health challenges among rural women.

Some mental health disorders only impact women. For example, some women may experience symptoms of depression around their menstrual cycle, known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or during menopause, known as perimenopause-related depression. Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and postpartum depression may occur around the time of childbirth. Compared to women living in urban areas, one study found that rural women were at greater risk for perinatal depression.

Implementing counseling interventions such as cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy can significantly improve health outcomes for women during and after pregnancy. Community health workers can be effective in engaging rural women with depression in mental health treatment. Rural mental health programs may consider implementing gender- and rural-specific trainings for mental health counselors or students to meet the unique needs of women living in rural areas.

To learn more about considerations for implementing programs that target maternal mental health, see our Rural Maternal Health Toolkit. For additional information on developing community health worker programs, visit our Community Health Workers Toolkit.

Resources to Learn More

Exploring Care From Extended Family Through Rural Women's Accounts of Perinatal Mental Illness - A Qualitative Study With Implications for Policy and Practice
Investigates the effectiveness of non-clinical care for rural women experiencing perinatal mental illness.
Author(s): Jackson, K., Smart, D., Henderson, E., et al.
Citation: Health & Place, 66, 102427
Date: 11/2020