MPR News with Angela Davis

Rural Voice: Mental health and social isolation in rural communities

People sit in a room
Mental health and social isolation are discussed at the Rural Voice town hall MPR News host Kerri Miller moderated in in Little Falls, Minn., on Oct. 4.
Courtesy of Kelly Smith

Rural Americans experience higher rates of depression and suicide than people who live in the city, but they are less likely to have access to mental health care services.

Add to that the social isolation that can come from living in remote areas, and the still taboo nature of mental health struggles in small towns, and you’ve got a recipe for desolation.

That’s why MPR News host Kerri Miller tackled the topic as part of her Rural Voice series. She moderated a town hall earlier this month in Little Falls, Minn., where community members discussed the realities of disconnection, post-pandemic, and how social isolation puts everyone at risk.

But they also brainstormed ways to fight it. How can therapists, doctors and volunteers become more culturally competent, so mental health struggles don’t go unaddressed? What can Minnesota do to make mental health care more accessible to rural communities? Are there particular programs that are effective with populations who are experiencing high rates of depression and anxiety right now, like seniors and teens?

This is part three in a four-part series featuring conversations from the Rural Voice project — a series of town halls hosted by Miller in communities across the Upper Midwest about the rewards and challenges of making a home in rural America. The first discussion, hosted in New Ulm, Minn., focused on how to support rural entrepreneurship. The second, from Two Harbors, Minn., discussed the urgent need for affordable housing in small towns.

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