Addressing Stigma in Program Implementation
In tight-knit rural communities, stigma around mental health and
suicide is often heightened because of a lack of anonymity, particularly compared to urban areas. Stigma can be
so great that some rural residents worry their help-seeking would negatively affect their family's reputation.
Rural suicide prevention programs must address the stigma that exists around mental health and suicide in the
community. One strategy is for communities to share information about services that offer greater anonymity
for example, telehealth and talk and text lines. Information regarding these services can be shared via local
organization signage, websites, newsletters, and social media. Programs can work with schools, primary care
practices, community centers, fire stations, and places of worship to disseminate this information.
When stigma is widespread in a rural community, it limits the utilization and impact of the local mental
healthcare services. It is important for communities and local organizations to openly
discuss mental health and normalize help-seeking behaviors. One strategy is for programs to develop and
distribute educational materials about mental health. Examples of educational materials include posters,
brochures, and other printed material. These can be placed in primary care waiting rooms and exam rooms to
normalize mental health as a topic during a patient's visit. Primary care offices can also integrate universal
mental health and suicide risk screening and intervention protocols to proactively discuss and connect patients
to mental health services.