Mental health in rural areas: Join Seattle Times for a live discussion

The Mental Health Project is a Seattle Times initiative focused on covering mental and behavioral…

Mental health in rural areas: Join Seattle Times for a live discussion
Mental health in rural areas: Join Seattle Times for a live discussion

The Mental Health Project is a Seattle Times initiative focused on covering mental and behavioral health issues. It is funded by Ballmer Group, a national organization focused on economic mobility for children and families. The Seattle Times maintains editorial control over work produced by this team.

Mental health care can be hard to find across Washington and even more challenging in the state’s rural communities, where accessible services and treatment are limited. Only 12% of Washington residents live in an area where they can expect their mental health needs to be met.

Some sparsely populated counties have few, if any, providers available to see patients. The ones that do have openings may not have the specialty a client needs.

While the increased number of therapists offering appointments via telehealth, providing care over the phone or video, has allowed more people to access mental health services, gaps still remain — particularly for people with spotty internet connection. Cultural attitudes in rural areas often discourage seeking outside help.

The Seattle Times Mental Health Project will hold a live discussion with experts about rural mental health. Join us for an hourlong conversation over Zoom at 1 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 20. To register for the free online event, please visit

The event will include speakers from the agricultural community, which reflects many of the broader mental health barriers faced in rural areas. Farmers and farmworkers often go without mental health care while stressors mount.

We’d like to hear from you.

The Mental Health Project team is listening. We’d like to know what questions you have about mental health and which stories you’d suggest we cover.

Get in touch with us at [email protected].

They face demanding schedules from a nearly all-consuming job, and the work, often generational, becomes part of their identity, making it difficult for them to separate their role from conditions around them.

A 2021 American Farm Bureau Federation report, conducted by Morning Consult, found that 59% of rural adults believe there is some stigma around mental health in the agricultural community. That rate rises to 63% among farmers and farmworkers.

For more information about the event, or if you have questions you would like to see addressed by the speakers, email [email protected].

The panelists for the Dec. 20 event are:

Rep. Tom Dent represents Washington’s 13th District, which includes Lincoln and Kittitas counties, as well as parts of Grant and Yakima counties. Dent is an advocate for mental health reforms that improve the lives of the mentally ill and assist families in helping their loved ones.

Dr. Phillip Hawley is the primary care behavioral health director for the Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic. He is a licensed clinical psychologist and has worked in primary care for eight years. Hawley is focused on assisting in complete health care for patients.

Esmeralda Mandujano is the program manager for California AgrAbility Program and network lead with the Western Regional Agricultural Stress Assistance Program. Both programs are housed at the University of California, Davis. She applies cultural humility practices to deliver direct assistance to farmers and farmworkers with disabilities, injuries and illnesses to help them continue to work safely in agriculture and prevent secondary injury. She encourages farmers and farmworkers to take care of their minds and bodies.

Don McMoran is the WSU Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator for Skagit County, where he assists farmers and gardeners with their research and extension needs. His major programming includes cropping and irrigation systems, leadership, farm stress, agricultural suicide prevention and outreach to underserved audiences. He grew up on a 2,000-acre diversified potato farm in Mount Vernon.

Paul Nagle-McNaughton is the senior director at Comprehensive Healthcare in Yakima.