Rural experiences with mental illness: through the eyes of patients and their families

Fam Syst Health. 2012 Dec;30(4):308-21. doi: 10.1037/a0030171. Epub 2012 Oct 22.


People living in rural areas are often faced with multiple, complex, and seemingly insurmountable barriers to receiving appropriate treatment for mental health problems. Some of the barriers identified in the research literature include inaccessibility to mental health providers, stigma, and limited resources in the community. Despite existing data regarding rural patients and their families, little is known about their lived, personal experiences. For this reason, the purpose of this study was to determine the experience of patients and family members who are dealing with mental illness in rural communities. Based on this qualitative analysis of patient and family members' experiences in rural areas, issues surrounding mental health and treatment are accompanied by significant stigma, often left unresolved, and exacerbated by practical challenges which hinder access to proper mental health resources, frequently leaving rural residents to cope with inadequate solutions or seek their own, alternative solutions.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Community Mental Health Services
  • Family / psychology*
  • Family Practice
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Mental Health Services*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Rural Population*
  • Social Stigma