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Addressing mental health in rural communities

Courtney Brunner, a therapist in Ellsworth, Wisconsin, talks about how she's helping people in her hometown with their mental health.

ELLSWORTH, Wis. — "I've just been really grateful for the opportunity to be here for my community," Courtney Brunner says.

As a licensed social worker in Ellsworth, Wisconsin - Brunner sees how tough it can be for people to open up about their mental health. 

"I see that 'pull yourself up by your bootstraps' mentality," Brunner says. "There's guilt and shame centered around asking for help."

Brunner is doing her part to help shift that in the community she lives.

She says that she's seeing a lot more anxiety and depression, an increase in substance use, and even grief in the midst of a radical shift in what life has looked like over the past year. 

"Oftentimes we think about grief in terms of the physical loss of someone, but we don't often think about it in the loss of celebrating that birthday, or the anniversary, or getting together just for traditional holidays," she says.

Courtney says historically, getting access to mental health treatment in rural areas has been a struggle.

Ellsworth is a town of around 3,300 people and Courtney says she's the only therapist with a private practice there right now. Her office is housed out of a local chiropractic center. 

"The supply is definitely not meeting the demand and we're really feeling it as providers, but also as clients seeking out services," she says. 

As Brunner works to help support people in her community, she wants us to know that one of the best things we can do for ourselves is to reach out. 

"We thrive on human connection. So, whether you decide to reach out to a therapist, or you decide to have a coffee with a friend or even just call someone. I think that is so important," she says. 

Another option is telehealth.

You can check with your employer or your insurance company to see what options are available.

You can learn more about Brunner's private therapy practice here.