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An Overview of Mental Health in Casper, Wyoming

Wyoming is the least populous state in the Union, but Casper is one of its largest cities, second only to the capital city of Cheyenne. The most recent population estimate for Casper is 57,814 as of 2017.

Casper is the county seat of Natrona County in east-central Wyoming.

Located along the North Platte River at the northern edge of the Laramie Mountain Range, Casper is a city of stark natural beauty, offering tourists and locals alike the opportunity to enjoy outdoor activities such as skiing, snowmobiling, and ice fishing in the winter, as well as hiking, biking, and boating in the summer. Casper is also something of a cultural center as it hosts the Wyoming Symphony Orchestra, an annual series of Broadway touring shows, as well as an eclectic range of historical sites and museums. Forbes Magazine dubbed Casper one of the nation’s “best small cities to raise a family” in 2010.

Demographic Data on Casper

For all the good points about Casper, it faces challenges with regard to mental health just like every other city in the country, large or small. One of Casper’s shortcomings is that, in terms of race and ethnicity, it is not very diverse. People identifying as white/Caucasian make up 86.1 percent of the total population. That is just over ten times the percentage who identify as Hispanic/Latino (8.6 percent), which is the next most populous ethnic group.

An Overview of Mental Health in Casper

A 2015 community survey asked respondents to choose the three most important health problems in Natrona County. An overwhelming majority, 65 percent, chose mental health as one of the top three problems. In 2016, the average suicide rate per capita in Wyoming was the fifth highest in the nation at 20.5.

Statewide, 4.4 percent of adults had serious mental illness between 2013 and 2014, and 11.7 percent of adolescents had experienced a major depressive episode during the preceding 12 months. By 2017, that percentage had increased to 15 percent, compared with 13 percent for the United States as a whole.

Access to Mental Health Services in Casper

While most adults (68.4 percent) in Wyoming who receive mental health services report feeling positive about the outcome, less than half (44.5 percent) of those who need treatment for issues besides substance abuse receive it. The percent for adolescents receiving mental health services is even lower, 41.7 percent. When it comes to percentages of adolescents and adults alike receiving treatment for substance abuse issues, the numbers shrink even further, with only 10 to 15 percent getting help.

Part of the issue is a lack of sufficient mental health personnel. Perhaps due in part to Wyoming’s sparse population, there are health care shortage areas throughout the state. In the absence of mental health professionals, people experiencing issues may resort to “self-medicating” with illegal drugs, which can lead to run-ins with the law and a revolving door of incarceration and hospitalization.

Another reason why people in Casper may be reluctant to seek mental health services is an actual or perceived stigma about mental illness. People experiencing issues in Casper may feel a societal pressure to “cowboy up”; that is, deal with their problems on their own, without discussing them with others. The number of people receiving treatment at Wyoming mental health facilities has been on the rise since 2012, but some researchers see that as a positive indication that people are overcoming the stigma and taking proactive steps to seek the help they need.

Factors Affecting Mental Health in Casper

One of the major factors affecting mental health in Casper is substance abuse. The primary drug threat in Wyoming is methamphetamine, and has been since the 1990s. The prevalence of heavy drinking in Natrona County is moderate to moderately high among adults and adolescents alike.

Another significant factor is physical health. The incidence of diabetes, obesity, and chlamydia diagnoses in Natrona County is higher compared to many other counties in the state, and there is often a correlation between physical and mental health, such that a decline in one can cause a negative effect on the other.