Yesterday was one of those days I could have erased from the calendar and been happy. Everything and anything mechanical, from my computer, to my telephone, even my toaster, went wrong. What’s more, I lost a tooth filling and kept getting calls that were wrong numbers. Just an ordinary day in urban life. But should it be?
Scientists are beginning to warn that cities may be more frustrating and unhealthy than we realize. A recent article in Scientific American Mind confirms that “certain aspects of metropolitan life appear to incline the brain toward mental illness.” (“Big City Blues by Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg, Scientific American Mind, March/April, 2012 pg. 59.) The chronic stress of urbanization over stimulates a portion of the brain called the amygdala which plays a role in violent behavior. Increased brain activity in this region is also linked to schizophrenia and other mental illnesses.. (Ibid pg. 60) One key stress factor in city life, despite the crowds, is isolation.
There is hope we can reverse some of these effects, however. Researchers exhort us to rethink the way we build our cities. More trees and more green spaces might be called for. But the best antidote they can offer is to have a strong circle of friends and family. (Ibid. pg. 61)
Like a majority of Americans, I believe assault rifles create a good deal of urban stress and would like to see them banned. But, another solution, one less controversial, offers itself. The role of mental health services in city living can no longer be overlooked. We need to identify individuals who feel isolated –young people, immigrants, the elderly or any chronic loner — and provide services to help him or her make healthful connections with others.
(Courtesy of www.123rf.com)