Poor mental health affects our ability to enjoy life, cope with adversity, manage relationships, achieve employment, and find success. It can hinder our earning potential, making it difficult to obtain the basics of life like housing, food, and healthcare. Recent research suggests that those who live in urban environments struggle more with maintaining good mental health—a phenomenon that is most likely exacerbated by social distancing requirements and other public health measures made necessary during the pandemic.
Would it surprise you to learn that 1 in 4 people in the world will experience mental health problems in the course of their lives? Did you know that mental health disorders are the leading cause of long-term disability worldwide? Telehealth services are helping to address this rapidly worsening trend, but first, a little background.
Risk Factors for City Dwellers
As physicians and social scientists seek to understand mental health disorders, some interesting risk factors for poor mental health have emerged. Researchers have found that cities are associated with higher rates of mental health problems than rural areas. City residents are at 40 percent greater risk for depression and are 20 percent more likely to experience anxiety. In addition, urban dwellers are significantly more prone to loneliness, isolation, and stress, and have a risk of schizophrenia that is twice that of their counterparts who live in rural settings.
Density, noise, overcrowding, sights, smells, and pollution contribute to sensory overload. These stimuli trigger subconscious reactions and thoughts, becoming more intense as the inability to process and cope increases. The results of these subliminal physical and emotional reactions causes the body’s baseline levels of arousal and stress to spike—triggering an increased “fight or flight” response. Seeking relief, city dwellers may look for quiet, private spaces—which can lead to the social isolation associated with depression and anxiety, and is also thought to contribute to the ecological hypothesis of schizophrenia.
Erosion of Protective Factors
With less access to nature, reduced leisure time, and diminished access to natural exercise, urban dwellers can feel more exposed to the factors that can influence their mental health negatively. When people are exposed to constant crowding, light, and lack of privacy, they may feel unsafe, sleep less, and feel more anxious.
Seeking opportunity, people sometimes leave their close-knit rural communities, with their tight networks of family and friends, to come to the city. Developing comparable, replacement support networks takes time. During these times, city residents may feel as if their circles of protection have been compromised, leaving them vulnerable to developing mental health problems.
Pre-existing Risk Factors
Poverty, unemployment, homelessness, physical problems, previous trauma, personal crises, family break-ups, and addiction issues can lead people from rural areas to the city in search of better services and economic and social opportunities. Some of these reasons that drive rural residents into the city are also risk factors for mental health problems, creating a population who are already predisposed to mental health disorders.
People with pre-existing risk factors are sometimes physically and/or psychologically separated into city neighborhoods where residents are struggling with poverty and other social challenges, creating feelings of injustice, hopelessness, and depression among new residents.
Fortunately, telehealth appointments can be a powerful tool that make mental health services more convenient and accessible. Recent research suggests that the availability of telehealth appointments encourages clients to seek care earlier because they have the option to get help without leaving their homes. When transportation options are complex or limited, or clients find it difficult to leave their offices or homes for other reasons, telehealth options can be a good fit. In addition, telehealth appointments are frequently available during “less traditional” times, which can also be of benefit to city dwellers whose work/school hours may be irregular.
When you are seeking viable telehealth options, confine your search to comprehensive behavioral health programs that are licensed in accordance with COMAR Regulation 10.21.11.03. like Above All Odds. As a psychiatric outpatient clinic in Baltimore and Largo, MD, Above All Odds offers an array of behavioral health services to support youth, adults and families with mental illness and substance use disorders in Baltimore City and Prince George’s County. The company provides outpatient and virtual mental health and substance use services, psychiatric evaluation, medication management, supportive employment, and community based psychiatric rehabilitation services.
Good mental health is the bedrock upon which we build solid, sustainable lives. No one is “happy” all the time, but the ability to modulate mood so you can problem solve during the inevitable highs and lows in everyone’s life is the fabric of good mental health. If you’re experiencing feelings of depression or anxiety, reach out—help is out there.
If you need mental health support, fill out the “submit a referral” on the Above All Odds website.