JOHNSON CITY (October 10, 2022) – The East Tennessee State University/NORC Rural Health Equity Research Center recently released a policy brief examining the burden of public stigma associated with mental illness in the rural United States.
“Stigma is a widely recognized barrier to receiving health and mental health services,” said Dr. ETSU College of Public Health. “This policy brief, which is the first to be published by the center, documents the burden of public stigma associated with any mental illness in rural versus non-rural communities in the United States.”
In 2020, the ETSU/NORC Rural Health Equity Research Center received one of only seven Rural Health Research Center grants awarded by the Health Resources and Services Administration, Federal Office of Rural Health Policy.
“ETSU is a national leader in rural health research, and we are uniquely positioned to address complex and urgent health care challenges such as the mental health crisis facing communities across the country,” said President ETSU, Dr. Brian Noland.
The brief examines differences in stigmatizing attitudes and beliefs by village, gender, race, ethnicity, and age.
Key findings from the review included the following:
- Rural respondents did not hold more negative attitudes toward individuals with mental illness than non-rural respondents.
- Female respondents held more positive attitudes about issues related to recovery and outcomes than male respondents.
- Younger respondents had fewer negative stereotypes compared to older respondents.
- While similar population dynamics related to mental health stigma were observed among rural and non-rural respondents, stigma reduction efforts are particularly important in rural communities where there is limited or no access to mental health providers.
“This review helps highlight that rural people generally do not carry more stigma around mental illness than others, but also points out that more work is needed to increase access to mental and behavioral health services for rural communities, said Dr. Stephanie Mathis. “As we continue to see positive trends related to less stigma of mental illness, we need to find innovative ways to address barriers to access in rural communities.”
Authors of the review include ETSU College of Public Health faculty members Beatty, Michael Meit, Mathis and Amy Wahlquist, as well as Justin Kearley, a 2022 graduate of ETSU’s master of public health program.
“ETSU is committed to honoring our rural heritage, and the work the ETSU/NORC Rural Health Equity Research Center is doing to address rural health challenges is important not only to our region, but to rural communities across the country, said Dr. Kimberly. McCorkle, ETSU professor and senior vice president for Academics.
The mission of the ETSU/NORC Rural Health Equity Research Center is to develop strategies and recommendations for policy makers, rural health care providers, and rural communities to mitigate the individual and community impacts of substance use disorder (SUD), improve access to health care and social services and improve the health of the population. Learn more at etsu.edu/cph/rural-health-equity/.
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