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rural mental health

rural mental health

while there are significant benefits of living in a rural area, it can also pose challenges to your mental health

People in rural Scotland can experience mental health conditions, self-harming behaviour, and suicidal thoughts and feelings – no matter their age, gender or location. They might become isolated, worsened by remoteness and experience stigma and fear.

While living in a rural area can be peaceful, it can also come with its own set of challenges for your wellbeing. Our Rural Mental Health survey in 2017 found that there were unique stressors facing rural communities in Scotland contributing to poor mental health. 

Despite their close-knit nature, rural communities struggling with mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, often go unnoticed. They may face feelings of isolation and loneliness, with limited access to support services. These can be heightened by poor digital connectivity, inadequate transport links and a lack of anonymity. 

myths about rural mental health

only people in urban areas/cities have mental health issues

Everyone has mental health, but those in rural areas can have a harder time getting help. This can lead to individuals in rural communities facing increased isolation and limited resources for addressing their mental health needs.

seeking help is a sign of weakness in rural communities

Seeking help is a sign of strength. Addressing the stigma associated with mental health in rural areas can promote a supportive environment for individuals to seek assistance

living in a rural area is more relaxing than living in a city, leading to good mental health

While the environment can be beneficial, it doesn’t guarantee good mental health. Understanding the specific challenges rural residents face is crucial for effective mental health support. 

What is a rural area?

The definition of ‘rural’ changes from one country to another. In Scotland, rural areas are defined by the Scottish Government as places with populations of fewer than 3,000 people. As indicated by the most recent Rural Scotland report, this classification means that 98% of Scotland’s land area is deemed rural, despite having 17% of Scotland’s population. 

How does living in a rural area affect my mental health? 

Living in a rural area can have both positive and negative effects on mental health, and this can vary from person to person. At Change Mental Health, we understand that living in a rural community can present specific challenges, which can make it difficult for people to reach out to mental health services.  

This is why we collaborate with various organisations to better understand the issues that face this area. Some of the research that we’ve collaborated with include Rural Covid Life, Well-Connected Communities and the National Rural Mental Health Survey. 

In summary, here are some positive ways in which living in a rural area might affect mental health: 

Reduced stress: Research shows that rural areas often offer a slower pace of life and less crowded environments, which can contribute to reduced stress levels. 

Connection to nature: According to studies, access to natural surroundings and open spaces in rural areas can have positive effects on mental wellbeing, promoting relaxation and a sense of connectedness to nature. 

Stronger sense of community: Rural communities tend to be tight-knit, as there are fewer people, but it can foster a stronger sense of community and social support, which can positively influence mental health. 

However, living in a rural community can also pose some challenges, such as:

Limited access to mental health services: Rural areas often have fewer mental health resources including fewer mental health professionals and limited access to clinics or hospitals. This makes seeking assistance more difficult, considering the challenges of recruitment and retention of staff in rural areas for statutory services. When there is access to mental health services, a lack of transport can make it harder for people to attend these. 

Social isolation: While rural communities can be close-knit, smaller towns may also be more isolated, leading to feelings of loneliness, especially for individuals who are not well-connected within the community. Lack of digital connectivity further isolates rural communities, making the challenges around keeping in touch with friends and family more difficult. 

Stigma: Due to their tight-knit nature, people in rural communities often struggle to seek assistance, afraid that knowledge of their mental health condition might become well-known in the community. This prevents many people from seeking the support they need.  

Limited opportunities: Rural areas may have fewer recreational activities, limiting the opportunities for social engagement and personal growth. Rural communities typically have the lowest wage economies, meaning limited job opportunities in rural areas which also contribute to financial stress and job-related mental health challenges. 

National Rural Mental Health Forum 

The National Rural Mental Health Forum is a strong dedicated network of over 250 organisations from third, private and public sectors, with an outreach to over 500,000 people in rural Scotland. 

The Forum drives change to enable rural people to be open about their mental health. It develops a programme to influence policymakers to channel resources in ways that bring positive change through a network of rural organisations across Scotland. The Forum is also an action point in the new Scottish Government’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy.  

Monthly seminars are hosted in partnership with guest speakers from organisations part of the network to speak about key topics and issues related to mental health and wellbeing in rural Scotland. 

Rural Connections 

Are you involved in rural work or leadership? Interested in boosting mental health awareness? 

In collaboration with Mental Health UK and Neptune Energy, Rural Connections assists businesses in adopting and enhancing workplace wellbeing policies and initiatives. Change Mental Health aims to enhance mental health and wellbeing across rural Scotland. We achieve this by offering fully funded introductory training on mental health awareness to rural organisations and businesses with fewer than 50 employees. 


Change Mental Health delivers 80% of its support to rural communities across Scotland. You can find out more about the support we deliver in the ‘need support’? section of our website.

Our Advice and Support Service is open Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm, where advisers can signpost you to local support that most fits your needs, including our Change Mental Health services. We offer initial advice on money worries and help to deal with emergencies. 

Contact 0808 8010 515, email us at or fill out the enquiry form on the Advice and Support Service page. 

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