Mental health stigma is defined as both
self-stigma and public stigma. Self-stigma
is fear or embarrassment related to seeking out mental healthcare due to internal beliefs, and public stigma is
judgment related to an individual's mental health condition from community members, family, providers, and
When implementing rural mental health programs, community members should consider how stigma may impact access
and use of mental health services.
One approach is to launch public
health campaigns in rural areas with individuals who represent rural communities. By creating a campaign around
individuals that rural community members identify with, community members are more likely to listen and
internalize campaign messaging. Highlighting the importance of mental healthcare and the prevalence of mental
health diagnoses in rural communities through public health campaigns can be an effective means of normalizing
mental health treatment.
Another option to address rural mental health stigma is to create integrated
health systems. This may be especially useful for older adults in rural areas. Tim Randall, a family
medical provider stated in an article
from Health Progress that,
“The elderly, in particular, are more comfortable being treated in a primary care setting due to the
stigmas and perceptions associated with behavioral health treatment.”
This is especially relevant for rural communities because rural populations are aging. By treating mental health conditions in integrated care
settings, community members, including older
adults and others who may experience stigma, may be more willing to seek treatment.
Providing care in a primary care setting or other outpatient setting may create a more comfortable and
accessible care environment for individuals who struggle with public stigma and self-stigma. Patients may be
more willing to seek out mental healthcare in a hospital or primary care setting because this environment may
feel more anonymous to the patient.
Resources to Learn More
Provides information about an annual public awareness campaign, help each May, designed to raise
awareness and reduce stigma around mental health conditions.
Organization(s): National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI)
Services Integration Toolkit: Primary Care Behavioral Health Model
Describes integrated primary care and behavioral health models – provides examples of various models,
considerations, and other resources.
Organization(s): Rural Health Information Hub