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Let's Talk About It: A Spatial Analysis of Mental Illness in Rural Pennsylvania

Authors: Benny Nein*, West Chester University, Matin Katirai, West Chester University
Topics: Applied Geography
Keywords: Mental Health, Geographic Information Systems, Rural, Pennsylvania
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the U.S. and is a risk factor for suicide (Health and Human Services, 2014). Ninety percent of those who die by suicide have an underlying mental illness and suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. (National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 2019). Approximately 44 million Americans experience mental illness every year and mental illness costs America over $193.2 billion in lost earnings every year (NAMI, 2019).

Mental health is a significant issue in Pennsylvania and over 4 % of adults in the state are living with serious mental health conditions and approximately 827,000 adults in Pennsylvania with mental illness received mental health services (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2016). Sadly, over 53 % of adults with mental illness in Pennsylvania did not receive any mental health related care (Resources to Recover, 2019) and Pennsylvania ranked 13th in the country with access to mental health care services (Mental Health America, 2019).

Rural populations are underserved, have major health and behavioral disparities, face persistent shortages of mental healthcare providers, and have limited access to care (Mental Health Association in Pennsylvania, 2018). This study examines spatial access to mental health care services in rural Pennsylvania by using Geographic Information Systems to identify populations living within a 30-minute drive time of a mental health care provider to find areas that lack access to coverage and make recommendations for future mental health service locations.

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