No Longer an Outsider: Affecting Rural Mental Health Stigma through Community Involvement
Smalley, Ryan B.
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Previous research has shown that rural mental health practitioners (MHP) face issues with stigma towards seeking services, and stigma related to mental health services as a whole (Stewart, Jameson, & Curtin, 2015; Larson & Corrigan, 2010). Rural MHPs are often viewed as outsiders, which can also be a barrier (Bischoff et al. 2014). Other research has shown that both living in the rural community where they practice, and being involved in that community may reduce these barriers (Malone & Dyck, 2011). A total of 422 participants who were recruited through an introductory psychology class and a social media/web based snowball method were included in the study. Participants were randomly assigned to conditions where they would rate a described MHP using the Counselor Rating Form-Short version, complete the Inventory of Attitudes Towards Seeking Mental Health Services (IASMHS), and fill out demographic measures designed to determine the rurality of the participants. Multivariate analysis showed that MHPs described as being involved in the community were rated significantly higher than MHPs described as not being involved. Multiple regression analysis found that participants’ rurality was positively associated with their ratings of MHPs described as residing in the community and being involved in the community, commuting to the community and being involved, and residing in the community and not being involved. The findings of the study suggest that community involvement can significantly improve perceptions of MHPs which in turn can reduce selfimposed barriers to seeking mental health services.