Why young people face the greatest barriers to mental health in rural areas

Published: April 2024

Why young people face the greatest barriers to mental health in rural areas

The chronicity of mental distress and mental illness in young people are alarming, and their habitual discretion makes timely intervention difficult. 

With advancing concern, young people in rural areas are at an increased risk of adverse effects due to inaccessible resources and isolation. 

What are the barriers to accessing mental healthcare in rural areas?

Geographical isolation

  • A lack of social support

 Such as group therapy, support groups, and social clubs for at-risk youths.

  • Inaccessible resources due to elevated costs and geographical isolation

What costs are elevated due to geographical isolation? 

Prescription prices, travel expenses (many rural residents must travel to surrounding cities for proper or immediate care), and affordable care.

  • Limited funding and resources allocated to healthcare facilities in rural areas

Rural areas have limited access to mental health facilities, delaying intervention. Most healthcare facilities are funded by the government, which financially favors areas with a larger population. 

Digital divide

  • Increased vulnerability and isolation

Social media has become more welcoming to the neurodivergent community. Young people in rural areas may be unable to access virtual communities because of limited cell service.

  • Increased stigma

With smaller populations come bigger social norms and expectations. A lack of diversity can put a young person at greater risk of feeling alone.

  • Hindrance in telemedicine and prescription delivery services

Shortage of mental health professionals

Rural areas have fewer educational and employment opportunities compared to cities. This puts young people at risk for:

  • Delayed intervention

  • Limited or unobtainable options and resources 

Beneficial options within the classroom: extended test times, school counselors, and adapted education programs.

  • Limited options for choosing a mental healthcare team 

Not all therapists are one size fits all, and limited options can limit a patient’s ability to choose a mental health professional that they, or someone they know, doesn't know.

Privacy is often a concern to young people in rural areas. Without a guarantee of patient confidentiality, many young people avoid asking for help. 

What is being done to change this?

Through Mind, Body, Brain's pilot project, Holistically Rural Outreach Youth Project, we are fighting to continue bridging the gap between mental healthcare and young people in rural communities. Young people urgently need access to the same resources found in larger communities, and with your help, progress is achievable. 

Learn more about the Holistically Rural Outreach Youth Project we are running at Rural Mental Health Matters and Mind, Body, Brain

Your support could help young people everywhere!


Mentionable resources:

Identifying barriers to mental health help-seeking among young adults in the UK: a cross-sectional survey

Feeling different or out of place?

This blog was written by Laura-Ray Read, Neurodivergent writer and so much more.

If you're looking to share your personal lived experience with us or your expertise on mental health, physical health, accessibility, and inclusion, please contact media@ruralmhmatters.co.uk. We'd love to hear from you.


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