Senior Life Solutions addresses mental health in rural communities


May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and Adena Health System’s Senior Life Solutions program is spreading awareness of the challenges of receiving mental health access in rural areas.

Senior Life Solutions is a program designed to meet the unique needs of individuals typically 65 and older experiencing depression and/or anxiety related to life changes that are often associated with aging.

While mental illnesses have a similar prevalence in both rural and urban environments, the circumstances and access to treatment look different. The National Rural Health Association tells us that rural residents face more obstacles in obtaining behavioral health services. As a result, distinct mental health differences are seen rurally compared to urban residents.

“Everyone deserves access to quality mental health care,” says Angela Mellott, RN, Program Director, Senior Life Solutions at Adena Fayette Medical Center. “Helping as many people as possible get the help and treatment they need is what we work towards every day.”

Figuring out a solution starts with identifying the problem. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration highlights the following barriers to receiving mental health care in rural areas:

· Lack of Privacy – Individuals living in rural locations commonly identify a lack of privacy barrier to receiving treatment.

· Lack of culturally appropriate treatment – Culturally appropriate treatment accommodates clients’ beliefs and practices, preferred languages, individual and family histories, differences in symptoms, and preferred treatment approaches.

· Lack of Services – Even when individuals living in rural locations want treatment, they may have few services and providers in their areas. They may have less access than urban residents to evidence-based practices (EBPs).

· Lack of Practitioners – Rural areas have few behavioral health practitioners, particularly ones who are qualified to provide specialty treatment or EBPs. More than 75 percent of all U.S. counties are mental health shortage areas, and half of all U.S. counties have no mental health professionals.

Recently, solutions such as teletherapy have helped increase access to mental health care for rural Americans, making treatment more obtainable. Senior Life Solutions offers emotional support to patients from the comfort of their homes. Teletherapy services are offered via telephone or computer, without the need to meet in-person.

Along with these incredible technological advances, one thing we can all do to help improve access to mental health is simply talking about it. Talking about mental health can open up the door for people to feel more comfortable and less afraid to seek help.

The American Psychiatric Association says, “Research shows that knowing or having contact with someone with mental illness is one of the best ways to reduce stigma. Individuals speaking out and sharing their stories can have a positive impact. When we know someone with mental illness, it becomes less scary and more real and relatable.”

According to Mellott, following an individual assessment, patients in the Senior Life Solutions program meet up to three times per week in a supportive, encouraging group setting.

If you or someone you know is struggling with a decline in emotional health, AFMC’s Senior Life Solutions wants you to know they are here to help. Whether through its program, or another service, their team works to identify and address the emotional needs of those in our community and provide support.

If you need more information, education, or would like to discuss support, call Senior Life Solutions at 740-333-2226.

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