Skip to main content
Rural Health Information Hub

The Mental Health Workforce

There are a variety of issues related to workforce that rural communities should consider when implementing a mental health program, including diversity, roles, and incorporation of community members.

Mental Health Workforce Diversity

Rural healthcare organizations should consider developing a mental health workforce that is representative of their community. When considering the mental health workforce, it is important that rural communities have a workforce that is representative of their demographics and cultures in order to mitigate these disparities.

Professional Roles

When considering the make-up of a rural healthcare workforce, rural communities should consider the variety of professional roles that exist in the mental health system, including primary care doctors, nurse practitioners, psychologists, nurses, psychiatrists, counselors, and social workers. For example, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) explains that social workers are an important part of mental health treatment plans, and that these positions make up the majority of the mental healthcare workforce. Rural communities should consider developing programs that include a variety of professional roles whenever possible.

Incorporation of Community Members

Because rural communities face a mental healthcare workforce shortage, they should not discount the importance of nontraditional roles and community members when providing mental health support. This may come in the form of Mental Health First Aid, or through informal support from community members. Types of community members who may encounter and help with mental health problems in rural areas include peer support workers, community health workers, clergy and other faith leaders, teachers and others in the school systems, and police and other first responders. Community members are also essential to addressing issues of social isolation and loneliness, which are closely tied to mental health outcomes.

Resources to Learn More

A tool for employers and potential employees to post and find healthcare positions in rural and underserved areas across the country, including positions in mental and behavioral health.

Key Informant Perspectives on Rural Social Isolation and Loneliness
Provides results from interviews with experts on rural social isolation and loneliness highlighting particular challenges and opportunities to addressing those issues in rural communities.
Author(s): Henning-Smith, C., Ecklund, A., Lahr, M., et al.
Organization(s): University of Minnesota Rural Health Research Center
Date: 10/2018