By Keren Landman: For More Info, Go Here…
Amid the clatter of shopping carts outside the Dallas, Georgia, Walmart, Erica Rowell crinkled her nose as she glanced toward the other end of the store. There, past a Subway restaurant, a nail salon, a veterinary center, and an ocean of checkout lanes, stood Walmart Health, a clinic offering primary care, dentistry, and mental health services — the first and only one in the United States.
While the clinic offerings are still in early testing stages, if the services are spread to more stores it could mean more accessible and affordable mental health care for rural Americans — and potentially normalize it in places where seeking care is often a source of shame.
In rural regions of the United States, the consequences of untreated mental illness are dire: A recent analysis published in JAMA Network Open revealed that suicide rates are higher, and rising more quickly, in rural than urban counties, and people living in rural areas are hospitalized for mental health issues at higher rates than residents of metro areas.
Experts attribute this in part to the expense of mental health care and the stigma associated with it, which together cause many rural Americans to avoid or delay seeking care for mental health symptoms. Rural dwellers with severe mental illness are more likely to self-pay for care than their urban counterparts, and likely to have higher out-of-pocket costs for health care in general. Studies in men, women, and children suggest that gender stereotypes, a cultural expectancy of self-reliance, and concern about stigma all contribute to rural residents’ reluctance to seek treatment for mental health issues.
There’s also a vacuum of rural mental health providers, which limits early and adequate treatment. The majority of government-defined mental health professional shortage areas are in rural counties. Non-metropolitan counties have one third to one half the psychiatrist and psychologist supply of urban counties, and 75% of more sparsely populated rural counties lack a psychiatrist.
What rural counties often do have is Walmart.