Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy

Mental Health First Aid in Rural Communities


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, conducted by researchers at the Maine Rural Health Research Center, examined MHFA's appropriateness and impacts in rural contexts. 

Findings: 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.

Conclusions: This study provides preliminary evidence that MHFA holds promise for improving rural BH. MHFA alone cannot compensate for weaknesses in rural BH infrastructure.

Article first published online: January 28, 2016

Suggested Citation: Talbot, J. A., Ziller, E. C. and Szlosek, D. A. (2016), Mental Health First Aid in Rural Communities: Appropriateness and Outcomes. The Journal of Rural Health. doi: 10.1111/jrh.12173

Publication Type: 
Journal Article
Publish Date: 
January 28, 2016