Rural Minds focusing on mental health in rural America

by | Nov 18, 2021 | 5 Ag Stories, News

A new nonprofit aims to provide rural Americans with expanded access to existing mental health service organizations.

Jeff Winton is the founder and chairman of Rural Minds, a nonprofit that addresses the importance of overcoming the stigma around mental health challenges. He explains his inspiration for the organization came from a tragedy in his own family. Just 48 hours after celebrating the marriage of one of his nephews in 2012, another nephew, Brooks, took his own life.

?As you can imagine, it caught our family and our entire rural community of 500 people completely off guard. However, there were some people in the community that didn’t want our family to talk about it as a suicide. So, I asked my mom who helped raise Brooks and was the matriarch in every sense of our family, what she wanted to do as far as addressing this during the eulogy I was about to give at the funeral. And my mom without even flinching, looked at me with tears streaming down her face and said to me, of course, we’re going to talk about it. She said, it’s about time that this rural community started facing what is going on here, and if by us talking about this in detail will help other families avoid going through the heartache and the tragedy that our family is experiencing, then it will be well worth it.?

Winton says addressing mental illness is a significant challenge in rural America due to unique barriers.

?First of all, there are 20 percent fewer primary care providers in rural areas than there are in urban and suburban areas. There is a lack of psychiatrist to the point where 65 percent of rural counties do not have a practicing psychiatrist, and in 81 percent of rural counties, there are no psychiatric nurse practitioners.?

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