May is Mental Health Awareness Month, an annual event that seeks to raise awareness about mental health issues and promotes mental health wellness. This year, the Mental Health America (MHA) 2023 Mental Health Month campaign is focused on how our surroundings impact our mental health, calling for individuals to look around and within.
Since 1949, Mental Health America (MHA) and its affiliates have created awareness and provided information on issues that affect mental health because they believe it is something everyone should care about. This year’s theme is something we can all pitch in to help create awareness of how surroundings impact on mental health. Our environment is a complex issue that affects individuals in different ways. Let’s explore some of the most critical topics related to our surroundings and how they affect our communities cope with stress, trauma, and more.
Safe and Stable Housing
Safe and stable housing is critical to mental health wellness. It provides a sense of familiarity and security that can contribute to feelings of safety and wellbeing. Conversely, if an individual does not feel comfortable in their home, they may experience depression, fear, or low self-esteem. This can be especially true if an individual has experienced frequent moves, which can make them feel less secure and affect their relationships.
Living in conditions of poverty can also contribute to mental health problems, as having access to basic necessities like heating, water and electricity are essential to feeling safe and secure in one’s home.
Healthy Home Environments
A healthy home environment is one where you are able to feel safe and secure. Crowded living conditions can create stress and anxiety, and cost of rent or mortgage can also contribute to feelings of anxiety and depression. People can feel lonely even if they live with roommates or family, especially when they are people that they dislike.
Neighborhoods and Towns
Neighborhoods and towns can have a significant impact on mental health. Living in an unsafe area with a high incidence of crime can contribute to feelings of anxiety and depression. Social anxiety can also be a concern if an individual feels uncomfortable around unfamiliar people or persons with different belief systems who may make them feel unsafe. Noise and overcrowding can lead to sleep problems, exacerbating existing mental health issues or creating new ones.
The Outdoors and Nature
Spending time with nature or being in contact with green spaces can benefit both your mental and physical wellbeing. Studies have shown spending time in nature can improve your mood, reduce feelings of stress or anger, help you take time out and feel more relaxed, improve your physical health, your confidence and self-esteem and help you be more active.
As we observe Mental Health Awareness Month, it is crucial to remember that mental health is not just an individual issue but a societal issue that affects us all. While there is much that we can do as individuals to prioritize our own mental health, we can also take action to support those in our community who may be struggling.
You can become involved by volunteering with organizations that work to provide safe and stable housing, supporting local efforts to improve the quality of life in underserved neighborhoods and towns, and promoting access to nature and green spaces. By becoming an advocate for mental health, we can work together to create a world where everyone can thrive and enjoy a life of wellbeing.
*Sources: Mental Health America, National Counseling Society, UN Environment Programme, Well more, Office of Policy Development and Research.