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The Mental Health Challenge You're Exposed to as a City-Dweller

busy city

Curbing the Mental Health Challenge in Cities


City dwellers generally face many issues that negatively impact their mental health. Notably, countries where more people reside in cities have higher rates of addiction, anxiety, and depression than rural countries.

This is somewhat in line with the theory than people are less happier now even despite having better lives in terms of wealth and freedom. In the US, depression is on the rise even as more people appear happier and have many amazing things than they ever did. There are now lighting fast smartphones, AI, remote jobs, and many other things that ideally should make people in urban cities happier by making their lives easier. But the reverse seems to be the case, as mental health in cities look worse off.

With how fast the world is getting urbanized, we ideally should find ways to curb the threat it poses to our mental health. Luckily for us, Urban Mental Health (UMH) researchers have already begun some studies to that effect.

The Ups and Downs of Living in the City

Life in the city is what anyone would wish for. Amazing skyscrapers all around you, easily accessible shopping malls at every corner, beautiful cars whooshing past, and a high number of commercial spaces that make landing a job relatively easier are only a few of the features that make city life attractive. But as with almost everything else, city life also comes with unintended downsides.

Life in the city can get very busy. People are almost always in a hurry to get to places; hardly any one persons takes note of the other. And there is less access to nature, something that science has proven to improve mental health by inducing calmness and joy. The noise, high cost of living, and pressure of busy cities also play a role in the residents' overall mental health.

In short, there are many factors at play when we talk about city dwellings and mental health. So how can we improve this mental health challenge with so many contributing factors at play? To do so, we must have an in-depth understanding of how these factors interplay.

This was what motivated Van der Wal to embark on the research with his colleagues.

Case Study: The Fictitious Jane

The research made use of a sample scenario featuring the fictitious Jane. Jane lives in a little neighborhood with minimal greenery in a big city. She doesn't get much income and is often anxious about money. The constant traffic noise often deprives her of quality sleep, and her performance at work consequently suffers. As a result, how much she earns nose-dives, increasing her money stress further.

Furthermore, the air pollution from the traffic noise can also impact Jane's brain activity. But even more critical is the fact that these same issues are what many residents in that same neighborhood face. There becomes a feedback loop: if many people in the same area suffer the same mental health issues, it further deepens the negative impact on the social cohesion of the neighborhood and individuals.

But what if there are environmental accessories or features in the neighborhood?

According to Claudi Bockting, professor of Clinical Psychology, featuring a park between Jane's building and the road can greatly help her. There would be less traffic and therefore less noise disturbance, and Jane would get better sleep, thus reducing stress and improving her mental health considerably. This kind of intervention on a large scale may greatly improve the overall mental health of the residents in that entire neighborhood.

The Bottom Line

Reinout Wiers, co-director of UMH, says that this research presents a conceptual framework by which further research can be done on urban mental health. The approach -- which measures how all factors interact and affect the residents -- is simplistic yet crucial.

Only this way can experts come up with interventions that directly counter the cause of the mental health challenges in the city.

Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Hope Mental Health, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults.  Ms. Woodland with her background in nursing, prefers a holistic and integrative approach to mental health care that addresses the mind and body together. While Ms. Woodland provides medication management services in all her patients, she believes in long-lasting solutions that include a number of psychotherapies, namely cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure and response prevention therapy, attention to lifestyle, evidenced based alternative psychiatric care and spirituality. If you’d like to gain control over your mental health issues, call Hope Mental Health at 208-918-0958, or use the online scheduling tool to set up an initial consultation.

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