Examining the Burden of Public Stigma Associated With Mental Illness in the Rural U.S.

Duration: approximately minutes

The prevalence of any mental illness, excluding substance use disorder, increased from 17.7% in 2008 to 20.6% in 2019 among adults in the U.S. Stigma associated with any mental illness is an increasingly important social driver of health. Public stigma refers to a unique set of beliefs and attitudes around mental illness that can lead to fear, discrimination, and other adverse consequences towards those living with any mental illness. It can also impact seeking of treatment and can worsen symptoms of mental illness due to feelings of isolation and loneliness.

This study examined public stigma associated with mental illness in rural versus non-rural communities using a nationally representative panel-based survey. Differences in stigmatizing attitudes and beliefs were analyzed by age, gender, race/ethnicity, and experience with mental illness (personal or knowing someone). Our speakers also introduced their latest study exploring rural suicide mortality rates. This study examines the variation in suicide rates by geography and explores factors contributing to differential rates in urban and rural areas in the U.S. from 2018 to 2021.


Alana Knudson, PhD
Alana Knudson, PhD, is a Senior Fellow in the Public Health Department at NORC and the Director of NORC's Walsh Center for Rural Health Analysis. She has 30 years of experience implementing public health programs, leading health services and policy research projects, and evaluating program effectiveness. Alana serves as the Project Director for the ETSU/NORC Rural Health Equity Research Center and the CMMI Pennsylvania Rural Health Model Evaluation and is the Primary Investigator for the Health Resources & Services Administration Bureau of Health Workforce's Substance Use Disorder Evaluation and Workforce Resilience Evaluation. Alana also has state and national public health experience having worked at the North Dakota Department of Health and for the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. She serves on the RUPRI Health Panel, the Board of Directors for the Maryland Rural Health Association, the National Rural Health Resource Center, and is a member of the University of Maryland School of Public Health Community Advisory Council, the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine's Department of Population Science Policy Advisory Board, and the East Tennessee State University Center for Rural Health Research Advisory Board. Alana received the 2021 National Rural Health Association Researcher of the Year Award.

Kate Beatty, PhD, MPH
Kate Beatty, PhD, MPH is an Associate Professor in the Department of Health Services Management and Policy at ETSU's College for Public Health. She is affiliated with the Center for Rural Health Research and CARE Women's Health where she is the principal investigator of a multi-year study of contraceptive access at safety-net clinics. She has studied patterns in clinical service delivery in rural and urban areas, organizational barriers and facilitators to access to clinical and preventative services, collaboration between health departments and hospitals, and the role of inter-organizational partnerships in health services provision in rural communities. Beatty is a mixed-methods health services researcher who has led projects on clinical capacities and organizational change with a focus on rural access.

Qian Huang, PhD, MA, MPA
Qian Huang, PhD, MA, MPA is a Research Assistant Professor at the ETSU Center for Rural Health Research with expertise in spatial and non-spatial data analysis. She has conducted multiple studies utilizing secondary data and quantitative and mixed-methods research. These include developing methods and tools to assess underserved healthcare areas, creating the Health Care Resource Index, building and maintaining the South Carolina Rural Healthcare Resource Dashboard and Tennessee Multi-Sector Plan for Aging Data Dashboard, mapping travel time to all medical providers and facilities, and analyzing survey results for natural hazards planning. She has also conducted several quantitative studies on the COVID-19 disparities in the U.S. and worldwide, which have been published in peer-reviewed journals such as the International Journal of Epidemiology, BMC Public Health, PLOS ONE, and the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

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