Mental Health First Aid in Rural Communities: Appropriateness and Outcomes
The conclusions and opinions expressed in the article are the authors', and no endorsement by the University of Southern Maine or the sponsor is intended or should be inferred.
Mental Health First Aid (MHFA), an early intervention training program for general audiences, has been promoted as a means for improving population-level behavioral health (BH) in rural communities by encouraging treatment-seeking. This study examined MHFA's appropriateness and impacts in rural contexts, using a mixed-methods approach to study MHFA trainings conducted from November 2012 through September 2013 in rural communities across the country. Findings show that MHFA appears aligned with some key rural needs. MHFA may help to reduce unmet need for BH treatment in rural communities by raising awareness of BH issues and mitigating stigma, thereby promoting appropriate treatment-seeking. However, rural infrastructure deficits may limit some communities’ ability to meet new demand generated by MHFA. MHFA may help motivate rural communities to develop initiatives for strengthening infrastructure, but additional tools and consultation may be needed.