Graduation Date

Spring 2018

Document Type



Master of Arts degree with a major in Psychology, option Academic Research

Committee Chair Name

Dr. Tasha R. Howe

Committee Chair Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Second Committee Member Name

Dr. Benjamin Graham

Second Committee Member Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Third Committee Member Name

Kathryn O'Malley, RN, MSN, FNP

Third Committee Member Affiliation

Community Member or Outside Professional

Subject Categories



Mental health problems affect millions of children and adolescents each year. Furthermore, the prevalence of these difficulties may be higher among children living in rural communities. Primary care providers are playing a larger role in the treatment of mental health challenges in youth. The present study examined the experiences and knowledge of rural parents and primary care providers regarding children’s mental health care.

While providers practicing in six counties were invited, all respondents (N = 19) practiced in Humboldt County. Parents were recruited through schools which agreed to distribute the survey. Ten principals in four counties agreed, including Del Norte, Humboldt, Siskiyou, and Trinity counties. Responding parents (N = 65) resided mostly in Humboldt and Del Norte counties.

Most parents in need of services for their child were unaware of where to go to initiate treatment. While many parents reported their child’s primary care provider as the first professional to whom they raised concerns. Primary care providers reported rarely administering socioemotional assessments. Additionally, most primary care providers indicated that they lacked access to mental health care specialists to whom they could refer youth.

The present findings suggest that tangible barriers appear most salient for both parents and providers in rural areas. Thus, recommendations were made regarding addressing gaps in care, including, but not limited to, increasing providers’ knowledge of trauma-informed care and the co-location of a mental health specialist within primary care. Parents of children struggling with mental health problems often experience stress and concern about their child’s functioning. Rural parents often turn to their child’s primary care provider as an authority on how to best help their child. However, providers often lack specialized training and the time needed to conduct thorough assessments.

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