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Rural Ohioans struggle with behavioral health access, stigma


When it comes to rural parts of Ohio, stigma and access to behavioral health services are two barriers parents are forced to navigate when trying to help their child. There is only one child psychiatrist in southeast Ohio, in Athens County, and two in south central Ohio, in Lawrence County, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (Source: “Rural Ohio struggles with access to mental health services,” Columbus Dispatch, March 2, 2020).

“The more you get out into those rural areas, the less opportunity you have for behavioral health care,” said Tony Coder, executive director of the Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation. “There aren’t a number of providers in rural areas, and you combine that with the stigma and no one talking about it, it really is a perfect little storm that we’ve got going there.”

Rural parts of Ohio, especially southern, southeast and pockets of northwest Ohio, had the highest rates of suicide from 2014 through 2018, according to the state health department. For example, for every 100,000 residents in Appalachia’s Meigs County, nearly 24 died by suicide.