Older men laughing

Ongoing agricultural and pandemic stressors have increased the need for mental health services across the Dakotas. During Men’s Health Month in June, the Office of Minority Health’s “6 Plays for Men’s Health” campaign promotes a healthy lifestyle consisting of support from mental health professionals along with cardiovascular health, physical activity, preventive care, tobacco cessation and vaccination. The campaign encourages men to commit to improving their health through behavior change.

“Integrated behavioral healthcare is important because primary care is where the majority of patients receive treatment for mental health disorders,” shared Robin Landwehr, DBH, behavioral health and substance use disorder program director for the Community HealthCare Association of the Dakotas.

Financial hardships and personal loss create mental health crises, which may lead to alcohol abuse, substance use and even suicide. Health disparity statistics show these negative coping methods impact men at significantly higher rates than women.

Stress and increased alcohol consumption can contribute to high blood pressure, weight gain and other risk factors for chronic diseases impacting quality of life and longevity. Life expectancy for men in the Dakotas is shy of 77 years compared to the 81 plus years for women.

Cardiovascular disease continues to be the leading cause of death for all Americans. High blood pressure and diabetes, two key risk factors for cardiovascular disease, are both higher for men in the Dakotas.

Across the Dakotas

  • Almost 25 percent of males reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder from April 2020 – April 2021
  • Fewer than half of Dakotans with moderate mental health illness received care in the past year

Across the Nation

  • Almost 60 percent of men report drinking alcohol in the past 30 days compared to 47% of women
  • Males are more than three times as likely to die by suicide than females and more likely to have been drinking prior to suicide

“Managing diabetes and hypertension requires quite a bit of self-management, and behavioral health providers are experts in helping clients with behavior change and modification,” Landwehr shared. “Out of the top ten reasons patients seek treatment in primary care, according to Mayo Clinic, seven are easily linked with a behavioral component. Diabetes, anxiety and depression, high cholesterol, hypertension, migraines, back pain and upper respiratory issues all have components for which a behavioral health provider may be helpful.”

Partnerships among primary and mental health care professionals are essential for ensuring proper utilization of the services, especially given the shortage of mental health care professionals. The integrated care model offered by federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) provides access to mental health care through a network of primary care sites in underserved and low-income urban and rural areas. Each site provides high-quality primary and preventive care to all individuals, regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay.

“Health centers use a variety of screening and assessment tools to measure outcome and impact,” explained Landwehr. “They sometimes employ behavioral health strategies, such as Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) and universal depression screening for patients. The score of the screening can then be tracked in an electronic health record where providers can measure progress or regression.”​

In addition, both North Dakota and South Dakota have a network of facilities contracted through state government to provide mental health and substance use services when advanced treatment and care options are required.

Landwehr advocates for a patient-centered approach. “A shared decision-making model allows health care providers to partner with the patient and their family to be actively involved in their care.”
Whether a crisis situation or a chronic mental health condition, a strong partnership among the health care and community support systems benefits the overall health and well-being of all.

Community and Behavioral Health Resources

NDSU Extension

SDSU Extension