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Improving Mental Health Care in Rural America: Are Mobile Health Clinics the Answer?

Mental health is a challenge that the entire nation has struggled with of late. While this in and of itself is worrying, those living in rural America seem to have even more significant barriers to overcome. People in rural areas have less access to healthcare resources than their urban counterparts, resulting in poorer health.

Though current healthcare access in rural areas may seem bleak, an exciting new form of care shows promise as a viable and effective solution. Mobile health clinics have the potential to reach a significant portion of those currently without access to medical care — such as people living in rural communities. As such, mobile health clinics may become a powerful antidote to the problem of lackluster mental health care in rural America.

What Is a Mobile Health Clinic?

A mobile health clinic is basically a medical office on wheels. Typically, these clinics house a slew of medical tools and devices that offer doctors and nurses the opportunity to treat patients the same way they would in a traditional doctor’s office.

The purpose of mobile health clinics is to help provide quality healthcare access to those who live in places and communities without access to these resources. As one might imagine, mobile health clinics can profoundly impact the health of many who have difficulty getting the healthcare services they need.

Mobile Health Clinics and Mental Health

In the same way mobile health clinics treat physical ailments, they can also provide mental health care. For those without easily accessible mental health services, having care come to one’s home can be a positive, impactful way to improve mental health.

The Importance of Mental Health Care in Rural America

Rural parts of America have dishearteningly bad health outcomes compared to cities. Those living in rural America have higher mortality rates from physical ailments and higher rates of suicide. According to the Rural Health Information Hub, the suicide rate in the most rural areas of the US is nearly twice as high compared to the most urban areas.

Lack of access to healthcare resources means that people are less likely to seek professional help unless it seems like a major issue. When it comes to mental health, the consequences of this could be dire. Rather than having issues treated before they become too serious, those in rural areas are more likely to let their mental health symptoms go unchecked until they develop into significant problems.

Providing access to healthcare — particularly mental health resources — is essential to creating a healthier nation. Taking care of Americans living in rural areas is imperative to improving mental health nationwide and promoting healthy habits.

How Mobile Health Clinics Can Improve the Mental Health of Rural Americans

Mobile health clinics may be the answer to the problem of worsening mental health in rural America. For those without access to mental health resources, having a mental health care provider come to one’s area could represent a seismic shift in the mental health landscape of rural America.

In addition to living far from health resources, many people in rural America have no access to transportation. Even if these people did seek care for their ailments, they would have no means of getting to it. Another significant barrier to mental health care rural Americans face is poverty. Many individuals in these areas could not afford mental health treatments even if they sought them out.

Mobile health clinics can overcome both barriers of poverty and lack of transportation. Providing free and mobile health services broadens the scope of who has access to healthcare — including mental health care — in rural America.

Other Practices That Can Improve Mental Health in Rural America

In addition to mobile health clinics, several other forms of healthcare practice have the power to increase access for rural Americans. In tandem with mobile health clinics, these practices could profoundly improve the mental health of rural Americans.


Telemedicine is a form of healthcare that has been gaining popularity in recent decades. It involves patients receiving healthcare through the medium of an electronic device — such as a phone or computer. In the case of rural Americans, telemedicine could make it far more convenient for individuals to receive care. This is especially true for mental health, as counseling and therapy sessions could be conducted over phone or video calls.

Health literacy

Though not a form of healthcare in and of itself, an improvement in health literacy could result in a drastic health improvement in the real world. Health literacy is the ability to understand information that relates to health and make informed decisions about one’s behavior to promote healthier outcomes. In rural America, many people lack well-developed skills in health literacy. As a result, many engage in behaviors that typically result in negative health outcomes. Increasing health literacy in rural America could profoundly impact the health of individuals living in these areas.

Providing Care to Those in Need

Due to a lack of resources and limited access to care, many living in rural America have suffered poor mental health. Mobile health clinics can provide these individuals with the mental health care they need in ways that overcome many of the barriers typical of rural areas.

Normalizing mobile health clinics and making them a staple in rural communities can help overcome the problem of poor mental health in rural areas.

If you or someone you know experiences mental health issues, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. Our Resource Specialist can help you find expert mental health resources to recover in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service to our users.

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About the Author: Sarah Daren has been a consultant for startups in multiple industries, including health and wellness, wearable technology, nursing, and education. She implements her health knowledge into every aspect of her life, including her position as a yoga instructor and raising her two children.

July is BIPOC Mental Health Month

Observed each July and formerly recognized as National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, BIPOC Mental Health Month highlights the unique mental health challenges and needs of Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC). Please join us in recognizing the struggles of BIPOC and bringing awareness to the need for adequate, accessible, culturally relevant mental health treatment, care, and services.

www.rtor.org and its sponsor Laurel House are committed to the advancement of racial equity and social justice and to making mental health services available to all.

Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash

The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios.

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