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Rural Life Poses A Unique Challenge For Mental Health

There aren't a lot of qualified therapists in a town with a population of 500.

B Adair grew up in rural Alberta, in a small town where everybody knew everybody else’s business. He had to deal with the challenges of coming out as transgender in a town where people weren’t always welcoming. On top of that, he also struggled with PTSD, anxiety and depression as a result of his work as a paramedic.

He talks about how hard it can be to find adequate mental health care in small communities in the video above.

B is one of five ambassadors for the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health’s Faces of Mental Illness project, where Canadians share their experiences of illness, diagnosis, and care.

Resources for people in small towns/rural areas

As B points out, it’s hard to get treatment for mental health in a small town both because there are fewer resources and because of the lack of privacy. But, there are some resources that exist, many online or over the phone, for people who aren’t able to see someone one-on-one. If you’re looking for mental-health care in a small town, here’s where to start:

Talk to your family doctor

As with people who can’t afford therapy, your family doctor is a good place to start. They can tell you what kinds of resources exist in your area, what the costs are like, and what’s covered.

Research your condition

Of course, this isn’t a substitute for one-on-one care, but if you’re someone who’s good with self-directed learning and/or you have a diagnosis, look online or in your local library for therapeutic resources. There are many books, lectures, online courses, and workbooks available, many free or very inexpensive. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health’s searchable index is a great resource to start with.

Talk to someone on the phone

If you’re suffering from depression and/or anxiety, you can take advantage of The Canadian Mental Health Association’s free internet phone coaching service, Bounce Back. It’s based on the tenets of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), and teaches skills to help deal with unhelpful thinking patterns. There’s also a Bounce Back video service with tips on building confidence, sleeping better, and managing mood.

Check out a support group

There may not be a lot of specialized therapy options in your area, but many hospitals offer group therapy programs. It can sound awkward and intimidating, and way weirder than having a one-on-one. But once you get over the initial awkwardness, speaking to other people with issues similar to yours can actually be really helpful.

Seek out an online support group

If you’re looking for more specific help or you prefer the privacy, try the internet. It’s very likely that there’s an online group for people with your condition, and/or for people who share your identity. Here a few examples of what’s out there:

Use an app, or get a video counsellor

There are an abundance of apps on the market right now for tracking and dealing with mental health, most of which are free. Here are some of them:

There are a ton more out there, for a variety of conditions.

Are you in a crisis? If you need help, contact Crisis Services Canada at their website or by calling 1-833-456-4566. If you know someone who may be having thoughts of suicide, visit CAMH’s resource to learn how to talk about suicide with the person you’re worried about.

Taking care of your mental health is critical — but there’s still a stigma about seeking therapy to manage your own wellbeing. In our series, “This Could Help,” we’ll explore how to get started with therapy and fit it in to your life and your budget. We’ll answer the questions you’ve been wondering, and show you the ways therapy can benefit you and the people you love. Whether you’re struggling or just want to make sure you’re on the right track, support is available, and it really can help.

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