ByNatalie Krebs / Side Effects Public Media and Iowa Public Radio |
Genesis Ramirez grips a digital timer, her legs swinging in a chair in the waiting room of the Meskwaki Tribal Health Center in Tama County, Iowa. The 17-year-old just got her second dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. But she didn’t do it just to keep herself safe. “My family is very high risk, and I don’t want to bring anything back to them where I can’t help them,” Ramirez said. Ramirez isn’t a member of the Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi, also known as the Meskwaki Nation.
This podcast of an original IowaWatch Connection radio report lets those in the Midwest U.S. trying to attract the necessary resources to meet mental health care demand in flood-stricken regions tell you about the problem. It includes one health care center that is trying to address the health care worker shortage head-on with a full-time recruiter.
Psychologist Lauren Welter says she faces an ethical issue with no easy answer on a regular basis: Should she take on more clients and provide less care to those she already sees, or turn away potential clients who have no alternatives?
FLOODED SENSES: MEETING MENTAL HEALTH CARE DEMAND IN DISASTER-STICKEN IOWA. Iowa does not have enough psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists or other mental health care providers to handle an increasing need to care for farmers dealing with relentless flooding this year, several mental health experts IowaWatch interviewed warned.
A stigma exists in agricultural communities when it comes to seeking mental healthcare. Moreover, Kyle Godwin, who recently researched patterns in farmer suicide for his University of Iowa School of Public Health master’s thesis, said his research data might suggest that doing anything to improve farmer mental health care will be difficult unless something is done to end this stigma. Paradoxically, Godwin’s research showed that in regions of Iowa that had a higher saturation of mental healthcare professionals, there were more farmer suicides, not less. “Of course, naturally, you want to think that the places with mental health centers are going to have lower suicide rates, and studies have found that with the general population, that a higher proportion of healthcare providers and mental healthcare providers have generally related to lower suicide rates,” Godwin, who grew up on an Iowa farm, said in an IowaWatch interview. “But then I think we have to remember that for when we’re talking about farmers… just in rural areas, in general, I should say, you know, stigma may play a more prominent role.”
Many mental healthcare providers IowaWatch spoke with pointed to stigma as a major roadblock when trying to treat farmers.