Syrena Clark, diagnosed with schizophrenia several years ago, has often been unable to access mental healthcare even in a crisis because she lives in rural Maine. Her story highlights how the vast majority of mental health professionals are located in cities, and even emergency services are limited in rural areas.
Ms. Clark interviewed Paul Mackie, president of the National Association for Rural Mental Health, for the article. According to him, "approximately 90 percent of all psychologists and psychiatrists and 80 percent of clinical social workers are located in urban locations," meaning there are far fewer mental health professionals to cover far more land in rural areas. There are also fewer psychiatric hospitals: Maine, as a state, does not even have ten, Ms. Clark cites.
Finally, even if one can get access to healthcare in theory, the costs or distance associated with it may be insurmountable. Ms. Clark calls attention to those who earn slightly too much for Medicaid but not enough to feasibly use tax credits for marketplace insurance. Their mental health medication becomes exorbitantly expensive in such cases. They may also, she points out, have to take time off from work to make long drives for healthcare, which is not possible for everyone. Even telehealth, which could nullify the distance between practitioner and patient, is inaccessible to the many rural residents without high speed internet.