On April 15, APA submitted comments (PDF, 330KB) in response to the NIMH Office of Rural Mental Health Research’s request for recommendations to improve rural mental health outcomes. APA’s comments were informed by Div. 38 (Society for Health Psychology), the APA Committee on Aging, and psychologists working in rural communities.

In addition to population health research, targeted research is needed to address the needs of diverse rural populations―including older adults, children and adolescents, Indigenous communities, farmers and agricultural workers―who are at high risk for depression, substance misuse, domestic violence, incest, child abuse, and suicide.

As a majority of rural residents receive mental and behavioral health services in primary care settings, research on integrated care models and the effectiveness of telemental health are critical to increasing access to psychological services. APA called for more research on the essential components of collaborative care models, along with increasing availability to evidence-based behavioral health assessment, evaluation, prevention, and treatment in rural settings and addressing the numerous barriers to access.

The pandemic has presented research opportunities for audio-only telehealth services, but more is needed for rural and remote regions. As individuals living in these locations are more likely to face barriers to reliable internet and technology, APA stressed the importance of investing in research to test multiple telemental health delivery systems.

While stigma remains one of main barriers to seeking psychological services, research is also needed to address workforce shortages in rural and frontier communities. Additional research is needed to identify effective recruitment strategies for mental health providers with rural cultural competence.

For more information, contact Karen Studwell.