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Updated: Oct 25, 2022

Urban Sanity mental health and the city เพราะผู้คนมากมายได้พบเจอและอดทนต่อสภาวะปัญหาสุขภาพจิตทั้งที่ไม่รู้เลยว่าจริงจริงแล้วปัญหานี้เกิดมาจากปัจจัยมากมายรอบตัวเรา สภาพแวดล้อมในเมืองก็เช่นกัน ความเร่งรีบและวุ่นวายในตัวเมือง ปัญหารถติด หรือมลภาวะต่างๆนั่น มีผลต่อสภาพจิตที่ดีของทุกคน แต่การพัฒนาสภาพแวดล้อมอย่างการมีพื้นที่สีเขียวที่มากกขึ้น โอกาสสำหรับการออกกำลังกาย ปฏิสัมพันธ์ระหว่างผู้คน ก็เป็นตัวอย่างการพัฒนาและส่งเสริมสุขภาพจิตในชุมชนเมือง จึงมีการตั้งคำถามว่า "คุณคิดว่าเมืองที่คุณอาศัยอยู่นั้นเหมาะสมกับสุขภาพจิตของคุณหรือไม่" บทความนี้เรียบเรียงและเขียนโดย ศุภิสรา คำเรืองฤทธิ์ น้องฝึกงานจาก Urban Design and Development International Program - Thammasat University มหาวิทยาลัยธรรมศาตร์

What is the first thing that would come to your mind when talking about a city? the big crowded in the rushing hour, the massive traffic jam with awful pollution, or the luxury high-rise building with convenience and accessibility? with these elements representing the city, the urban environment was shaping in terms of physical, social, and economic. But do you ever wonder how much of these elements in the city can have direct and indirect impacts on your mental health?

Urban = in, relating to, or characteristic of a town or city

Sanity = the ability to think and behave in a normal and rational manner; sound mental health

Mental health, means the psychological well-being of people which affects how they think, feel, and act. Nowadays, mental health issue becomes one of the most sensitive problems which can lead to the most dangerous outcome, suicide. To address the relationship between mental health and the urban environment, “Urban Sanity: Understanding Urban Mental Health Impacts and How to Create Saner, Happier Cities by Todd Litman" described effect of the urban environment to the mental

health in terms of both advantages and disadvantages. Based on the document, Litman said that the city’s environment may increase mental

illness, unhappiness, psychosis, or emotional disorder, but at the same time the environment can also reducing the problem of dementia, alcohol abuse, rate of suicide, or sensitively mentally behavior that cause mental illness.

The Centre for Urban Design and Mental Health, a think tank start-up which focused on how to design the better mental health in the city, was describing 3 main factors that link urban living environment to mental

illness: a pre-existing risk, economic and social, and physical aspects:

- Pre-existing Risk: the risk factors that influence personal background and social roles in the city. People who have a risk-condition such as poverty, homelessness, and unemployment tend to be more sensitive to the external factor.

- Economic and Social Aspect: People who live in the poverty community and neighborhood can easily get the effect of social and economic depression.

- Physical Aspect: external factors that urban dwellers are facing the density of people, noise and air pollution, or limited natural interaction.

With the factors mentioned earlier, the question is how we can make a better suitable environment for mental health and what we can physically change to improve saner and happiness in the city. these

following factors come from the methods of “the Centre for Urban Design and Mental Health” and “Urban Sanity: Understanding Urban Mental Health Impacts and How to Create Saner, Happier Cities by Todd Litman”,

- Green space and access to the nature: can improve and maintain mental well-being by depression and stress reduction.

- Active space for exercise: exercise can help on anti-depression and treatment on mental illness. Proving more public active space can reduce the number of mental depression and support on the

mental improvement of the city.

- Social Interaction: social interaction can help ones’ buildup self-esteem, and supporting the feeling of belongingness in the community. Providing more opportunities and places on public interaction can help to support better mental health.

- Public Infrastructure Network and Connection: to connect the city, public transportation is the main linking of people and communities which help on accessibility to a public facility. An easy accessibility city can benefit positively on people mental health.

- Economic Stress for affordability: to improve the saner and happier city, providing more affordable housing, transport, and the facility can help reducing stress.

- Community Safety: the sense of safety impacts directly to the feelings of being secure or insecure. Improvement on crime prevention likely the methods "eyes on the street by Jane Jacobs”

which recommended to have the mixed-use community with an all-time active community, could help strengthen this factor.

- Pollution Reduction: pollution can lead to mental depression. Providing protection such as green buffer, and public transport (reduce car) can protect people from mental depression.

- Mental Health Protection Service and Facility: with little concern and awareness of mental health lead to a lack of supporting facility and service. The increasing number of mental health services and

accessible facilities can reduce the rate of risk-behavior.

The Centre for Urban Design and Mental Health was also describing the mental impaction that can influence people in the city.

- Facing the overload: Overload is a body process of increasing levels of stress that make people try to relief by seeking privacy.This behavior can lead to an increase in mental depression and emotional disorders.

- Less mental health protection: reduce the mental health protection which causes by fewer access to the suitable environment and opportunity. By being less mental health protected, people tend to turn back from reality and living solitary that leads to less social interaction

Improving on these elements can increase the quality of peoples’ mental health. But these methods cannot be a hundred percent fit with

every city’s situation and time, so flexibility and adaptability can be keys to the answer to the problem in each city. To be flexible and adaptable

for both the city and people, the city will have the capacity to survive and adapt to no matter the situation. Then, what do you think about how

flexibility and adaptability city for mental health should be like? Stay tune to the example of how resilience city are like in the next article.

Source: Jacobs, Jane. “The death and life of great American cities”, New York: Random House, 1961 Litman, Todd. “Urban Sanity: Understanding Urban Mental Health Impacts and How to Create Saner, Happier Cities”, Victoria Transport Institute, 2016 The Centre for Urban Design and Mental Health, “How Urban Design can Impact Mental Health” ( impact-mental-health.html)

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