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.
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
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.
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