Where we live, grow up, work, and spend our time impacts our chances for success and ultimately survival in the world.
Ever hear the expression: Person versus environment.
It is an age-old debate on whether certain aspects of our success and/or failures is due in part to where we live.
Nature versus nurture also seeks to evaluate the protective factors (e.g. good parents, shelter) & weigh them against factors that put people at risk of potential harm.
Studies & ongoing research continues to struggle with answering this question when it comes to Mental Health.
There is no question that threats to a person’s safety will potentially harm our mental health on various levels. Included in possible safety threats is scarcity of resources, poverty, and homelessness, which are secondary to personal safety but are just as lethal in some cases. This is when environmental issues become more complex and hard to identity as contributing factors to our mental health. There is no question, however, that without healthcare and a home, the possibility of survival is lower than for an affluent person with the best mental health insurance coverage money can buy.
But the environment is much more than a collection of people and their wealth and how mental health intersects the macro & micro aspects of our humanity is even more complex.
So, what is important when it comes to our personal mental health when thinking about the larger world around us? Access to goods and supplies, hospital networks & medical/psychiatric care, even transportation contributes to our Environmental Mental Health Index (EMHI).
This is self-administered tool to help us evaluate if our environment is helping us thrive, or just survive in the world. To use the tool, simply ask yourself a few key questions and match them internally using your internal barometer to your thoughts and feelings on where you live and the larger world beyond your immediate surroundings.
The concept of the community contributes to our EMHI further. Community brings with it a collective mental health beyond our personal mental status. Both intersect and complicate what defines Mental Health on both macro and micro levels. Social Apparatuses, such as feelings attached to being apart of something bigger than ourselves, something unique, can make us feel a certain way about where we are and how we got there. Both the “where?” and the “how?” may not be telling of the macro threats & protective factors but they do inform how we feel about where we are living.
Using this method begins to be more cognoscent of your surroundings and how they impact how you feel on a daily basis. It is the first step to changing how the where becomes why you feel and think the way you do.