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An Overview of Mental Health in Fort Smith, Arkansas
Fort Smith, Arkansas is a county seat of Sebastian County and is the second most populated city in the state. It’s the main city within the larger Fort Smith, Arkansas-Oklahoma Metropolitan Area, which consists of various Arkansas and Oklahoma counties. According to 2017 estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, the population is 88,037. Founded in 1817 and incorporated in 1842, Fort Smith has a rich history and culture. It is known for its multiple historical sites, landmarks, and museums, including the Fort Smith National Historic Site and Fort Smith Museum of History.
Manufacturing, health care, and education are some of the top industries in Fort Smith. Its unemployment rate of 3.7 percent is the same as the national average.
However, residents of Fort Smith experience some obstacles when it comes to mental health. Just like the rest of the Natural State and the U.S. as a whole, people who live in Fort Smith often struggle to receive treatment for mental illnesses. Here is a close look at the issue and some of the contributing factors.
An Overview of Mental Health in Fort Smith, Arkansa
Serious mental illnesses and suicides are serious issues across the country, but some of the data coming out of Arkansas is particularly dismal. According to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the suicide rate in Arkansas went up a disturbing 36.8 percent between 1999 and 2016. The national average rate rose 25.4 percent in the same time period.
Risk Factors for Mental Illness in Fort Smith
The same CDC researchers said the suicides often followed substance use, financial problems, or relationship issues. These factors play a significant role in the prevalence of mental illness and suicide in the area.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, there is a serious substance use problem in Arkansas. This report says many Arkansas residents struggle with using and abusing illicit drugs and alcohol and suffer from serious mental health issues. Additionally, Arkansas has the 25th highest opioid overdose death rate in the country.
The finances of the average Fort Smith resident are not ideal. The typical household only earns $36,532 in annual income, in comparison to the statewide average of $43,813 and the nationwide average of $57,652. Similarly, the local poverty rate is 25.8 percent compared to 16.4 percent in the state and 12.3 percent in the U.S. This also plays a role in access to health insurance, which is a major hurdle when obtaining mental health treatment. A disturbing 17.2 percent of Fort Smith residents lack health coverage, compared to 9.3 percent in Arkansas and 10.2 percent nationwide.
Divorce Rate in Fort Smith, Arkansas
Since government researchers find that deaths by suicide often happen after relationship issues, it’s crucial to understand the divorce rate in the area. Astonishingly, Arkansas ranks fourth out of all the U.S. in the divorce rate. The Arkansas divorce rate rose from 22.3 divorces per 1,000 women to 25.3 from 2014 to 2015. In comparison, the national rate dropped from 17.6 to 16.9 in the same timeframe.
Mental Health Resources in Fort Smith, Arkansas
Even with some challenges facing the people of Fort Smith, there are some optimistic facts for those who need mental health treatment. For example, there are 286 mental health professionals for every 100,000 people in the city. In addition, Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed a law that establishes three mental health crisis stabilization centers with the goal to increase public safety and reduce the incarceration rate of people with mental impairments. The legislation coincides with an approval of crisis intervention training for law enforcement officers. Everyone can be thankful for this good news about mental health treatment in Fort Smith and Arkansas as a whole.
Thankfully, finding help is possible despite the obstacles. Finding a therapist in Fort Smith, Arkansas is now easier than ever. Our directory of mental health professionals is designed to connect users with therapists, counselors, and social workers who are ready to assist you. Here at E-Counseling.com, our goal is to help individuals in the Fort Smith area find qualified and trustworthy care providers.