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Woman struggling with rural mental health||Small group discussion

Rural Mental Health: Improving Access and Overcoming Taboos

Mental Illness impacts one in four people in America and has devastating effects on the health and well-being of individuals. People struggling with mental health and substance abuse problems are unable to live full lives and fully function within communities.

Many times, individuals don't receive the care they need because it either isn't available or it is a seen as "taboo" to seek treatment. CHI Health Schuyler knows this needs to change and that's why we are working with many partners, through the Colfax County Behavioral Health Coalition, to make a difference in both physical and mental health for all of our community.

Access to Mental Health Care in Schools

Access to care is a critical aspect of mental health and Colfax County, like most rural counties in Nebraska, is listed as an underserved area for mental health by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. One way the coalition is addressing this issue is by providing in-person counseling at the Schuyler middle and high schools.

This makes it possible for students in need of counseling to attend sessions without missing as much school, and without having to rely on transportation to make it to their sessions. We're not only helping bring care to the person and making it easier to access, but by integrating care in regular places where people spend time, like schools, it helps reduce the stigma.

This is also key for parents, because many times parents are unable to miss work, or risk not being able to provide financially for their families -- or even lose their jobs -- if they miss too much work, which might happen if they have to take time to take their kids to outside appointments.

Knowing that this service has been brought directly to the students is an accomplishment on its own. Also, providing care at an earlier age can help set kids up for a healthier lifetime.

Additional Mental Health Care Programs

The coalition is also addressing the rural mental health needs of the county's 6,000 residents in these ways:

  • The Mental Health First Aid Training course has been presented to diverse groups of community members. This helps people recognize when someone might be in crisis and needs assistance.
  • "Building Healthy Relationships" programs for middle and high school, which had been lost due to changes in grant funding, have been continued with coalition funding.
  • Tele-psychiatry consultations, which provide psychiatric services from a distance using telecommunications technology, are being offered as a care option to also provide improved access to care.
  • Potential anti-bullying prevention and awareness efforts are being discussed.

The services made possible by the Colfax County Behavioral Health Coalition are positively impacting the lives of our residents for the better, not only through services which touch individual lives, but also through discussion and training.

It is so empowering to know that just by creating awareness, we become more sensitive to those around us and more quickly able to connect those in need with essential services. For me, this work is an example of our dedication to our Mission and our community and makes me proud to be a member of this community.

Living Our Mission
Colfax County Behavioral Health Coalition

The Colfax County Behavioral Health Coalition strives to continue to improve awareness and acceptance of mental health issues. We have to eliminate the taboo around the phrase "mental health" – and replace that taboo with a promise to support one another.

By doing so, we are truly living our mission of making sure that not only the bodies but also the minds and spirits of our community members are well. The holistic approach that is taken is such an important component of our mission, and of our overall community wellness.

  • 99 community members have received Mental Health First Aid Training
  • 76 middle and high school students have received in-school counseling
  • 29 students have attended the "Building Healthy Relationships" program about mental health and suicide risk awareness upon re-launching of the program

The Colfax County Behavioral Health Coalition's goals are to increase the overall awareness of existing and potential resources among community stakeholders, provide training and develop a collaborative process to address families in crisis and offer prevention and intervention strategies which consider the diversity of the community.

For anyone in need of help with your mental health, please reach out to CHI Health Behavioral Care services.

Claudia Lanuza
Claudia Lanuza

Claudia Lanuza works at CHI Health Schuyler.

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