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Promoting Youth Mental Health in Rural Communities


Despite prevalent student mental and behavioral health (MBH) needs in rural communities, school mental health systems have not been thoroughly examined in rural areas and lack the perspectives of individuals who often help implement and utilize these systems (i.e., educators and caregivers). This study examined rural caregivers and educators’ perspectives on student mental health, including (a) MBH needs in their school and community, (b) types of MBH options and services available for students, (c) barriers to the provision of MBH services, and (d) facilitators that aid the provision of MBH services. Twenty-one caregivers and 20 educators from three rural school districts and one town school district participated in focus group interviews. Thematic analysis of the focus group data revealed school and community factors that may be impeding student MBH as well as key facilitators that could promote student MBH. Findings specifically pointed to the importance of interconnecting schools, communities, and families through effective communication and infrastructure support.

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The research reported here was supported by funding from the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Education Grand Challenges Competition and the Wisconsin Center for Education Research.

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Correspondence to S. Andrew Garbacz.

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Garbacz, S.A., Im, S., Young, K. et al. Promoting Youth Mental Health in Rural Communities. School Mental Health (2022).

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  • Rural communities
  • School mental health system
  • Mental and behavioral health