4 things that can improve your community’s mental health

MHA Admin

Mon, 05/15/2023 – 15:05

by Jackie Menjivar, Manager of MHA Peer and Youth Advocacy

Danté Golden, Senior Director of Policy at the San Diego Housing Federation and a graduate of MHA’s 2020-2021 Young Mental Health Leader’s Council contributed guidance for this article.

It’s estimated that 60% of your health is determined by your ZIP code alone. That means some of the biggest factors influencing your personal well-being are just outside your door.

So what makes a neighborhood or town a mentally healthy place to live? Here are four things that can make a difference.

1. More green space and less gray space

Children living in neighborhoods with more green space have a reduced risk of developing depression, mood disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders, and substance use disorders. Spending time in nature is good for your mental health, positively influencing your mood, focus, stress levels, and emotional regulation.

On the other hand, gray spaces – the artificial and often concrete infrastructure synonymous with most cities – can have the opposite effect. For example, highway systems, which produce noise, light, and air pollution, can negatively impact the physical and mental health of the people living near them.

2. Protection from gentrification and displacement

“I think the qualities of a good neighborhood are ones that allow you to grow within that community and not be forced out.” – Danté Golden

Gentrification happens when wealthier residents and businesses move into an area, increasing the cost of living and changing the character of a community.

According to Danté Golden, senior director of policy at the San Diego Housing Federation and a graduate of MHA’s 2020-2021 Young Mental Health Leader’s Council, income hasn’t kept up with rising rents in California – an issue that’s all too common nationwide. Native-born residents are being forced out of their neighborhoods, and the remaining ones face mounting housing pressure.

We know that housing instability can take a toll on your mental health. A 2020 study found that adults living in gentrified neighborhoods were at increased risk for serious psychological distress, with renters, low-income residents, and long-term residents being impacted the most.

To stop this kind of displacement, Golden thinks policymakers should be guided by the “three P’s” principle:

Preserve existing affordable housing
Produce more affordable housing
Protect renters and vulnerable communities

3. Safe and walkable neighborhoods

Golden points out walkability as one of the features that make so many European cities appealing to U.S. tourists. These communities were built around people, not cars, so you get thriving, high-density city centers that are both walkable and bikeable.

When your community is walkable, it can boost your mental health in a few different ways:

You spend more time outside, which means you get to experience the positive impact of the outdoors.
It’s easier to get to school, work, medical care, and grocery stores. These basic needs are the foundation for your mental health.
You have more opportunities for physical activity and all the mental health benefits that go along with it.

Infrastructure like street lighting, wide sidewalks, dedicated bike lanes, pedestrian-only streets, and clearly marked crosswalks can make your community more pedestrian-friendly, and, consequently, mental health-friendly.

4. Social connection and support

“Being a good neighbor means allowing the opportunities and benefits that you have to be shared within the community.” – Danté Golden

In low-income and under-resourced areas, the bond of a community often predicts the mental health of residents. Strong social ties within neighborhoods protect well-being by fostering a sense of teamwork and community care.

That’s why it’s so important to show up for your neighbors in big and small ways. Offer services to folks who need them – like shoveling snow for an older neighbor or babysitting for local parents.

Golden recalls his baseball coach that he had growing up, a neighbor who would buy equipment for the team and host practice on his own property. For Golden, this is what community care looks like.

What can you do to improve your community’s mental health?

Attend city council meetings. Make your voice heard in community planning and development. Give feedback on proposed ordinances, bring up issues facing the community, and advocate for increased services that support mental health.
Support local businesses. Shop local, leave a positive review, support them on social media, and tell your friends. Not only are you helping to protect local businesses from gentrification – you’re also fostering connections and community care.
Talk to your neighbors. Share resources, join a local group, and plan or promote community events. Even introducing yourself and learning your neighbors’ names can build a sense of belonging.

The bottom line: When we invest in our communities, we’re building a foundation for positive mental health – and by uplifting the place, you’re uplifting the people who live there, too.

This Mental Health Month, Mental Health America invites you to Look Around, Look Within to learn about how your surroundings can impact mental health. Learn more in our 2023 Mental Health Month toolkit.

Connect with Danté Golden.

Learn more about Mental Health Month


The Capital City Emergency “Level II” Trauma & Wellness Center will house a “state of the art” Outreach Community Resource Center, that will provide case management, mental health community advocacy, and oversight from the M.I. Mother’s Keeper mental health advocates. 
The Capital City Emergency “Level II” Trauma & Wellness Center will offer patrons access to immediate coverage by general surgeons as well as coverage by the specialties of orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, anesthesiology, emergency medicine, radiology and critical care.
Our goal is to help people in the best way possible in an effort to preserve and to save more lives in the Nation’s Capital and beyond.

Follow Capital City Emergency Trauma & Wellness Center's success:

Sign up to receive updates


Code Red
Gunshot Victim
Life Threatening Wounds
Physical Assault Victim
Severely Injured Auto Accident Victim
Burn Victim
Choking & Breathing Obstructions
and more…


Child Sex Assault Victim
Domestic Violence Victim
Drug Overdose
Rape/Sex Crime Victim
Suicide Watch
Trafficking Victim
Nervous Breakdown
and more…

Mental Health

At Capital City Emergency Trauma & Wellness Center patrons with mental health emergencies that include life threatening situations in which an individual is imminently threatening harm to self or others, severely disoriented or out of touch with reality, has a severe inability to function or is otherwise distraught and out of control, will have access to quality and psychiatric emergency services and referrals.

Physical Health

Whether your life threatening medical emergency involves excessive or uncontrollable bleeding, head injury. difficulty with breathing, severe pain, heart attack, vision impairments, stroke, physically collapsing, or seizure related, rest assured that our professionals will properly assess and evaluate the level of response that will be most needed to help provide stabilized care solutions and minimize complications as well as reduce early mortality.

Holistic Healthcare

We offer healthcare solutions that will support the whole person which includes their physical, psychological, emotional, social, & spiritual wellbeing. Research supports that because your mental state can affect your overall health we support and offer the inclusion of complimentary and alternative medicine(CAM) practitioners and naturopathic doctor recommendations and referrals as a part of our Outreach Community Resource Center’s care regimen and support.


Emergency care can typically result in traumatic injuries for which rehabilitation becomes an essential component of care in trying to achieve the best long-term outcomes for the patient. In addition to speeding up recovery times and helping to prevent further complications, rehabilitative care also helps to support a patient’s self-managed recovery once discharged from our facility. Our Outreach Community Resource Center works closely with our trauma center’s discharge department to assure that patrons requiring these services are linked with qualified professionals who will be accountable to the standard of care required to help the patron be successful in their recovery.

Social Services

Our “state of the art” Outreach Community Resource Center intends to promote “expansive” beneficial community enriching services, programs, case management, & linkage to “approved” partner resources and supports in all of the following intended areas and more:

Social Services

  • Clothing
  • Food Pantry
  • Housing/Shelter
  • I.D. Credentials
  • Senior Wellness Check
  • Toiletries
  • Transportation
  • Etc.

Extended Family Services

  • Child Care
  • Credit Counseling
  • Family Court Services
  • Legal Aide

Career Training

  • Apprenticeship programs
  • Computer/Graphics Training
  • Culinary Program  
  • GED Courses
  • Hospitality Training
  • Job Etiquette & Grooming
  • Resume’ Prep
  • Sales Training
  • Software/Technology workshops
  • Small Business Training

Return Citizen
Program Partner
(Bridging the Gap)

  • Case Management
  • Temporary Boarding/Housing
  • Transitional Program Registration

Prevention/Intervention Outreach,
Workshops, & Programs

  • After-school Behavioral Health Program
  • Civic Engagement / Volunteer Sign-up
  • Fatherhood Rites of Passage
  • Gun Violence Town Hall Forum
  • Life Coaching & Coping Strategies
  • Marriage Counseling Workshops
  • Medicare Informational Workshops
  • Mentorship Training
  • Parental Classes
  • Support Groups
  • Town Hall Discussions
  • Violence De-Escalation Training
  • Voter Registration

Nutritional Outreach

  • Cooking Demonstrations
  • Dietary Programs
  • Exercise Classes
  • Recipe Sharing Workshops
  • Meal Prep

Community Outreach

The Healthy DC & Me Leadership Coalition is partnering with the M.I. Mother’s Keeper Mental Health advocacy organization to provide outreach services on the community level as an aid in reducing the existent health inequities that many District citizens are facing as a direct result of the presence of debilitating social determinants and the lack of culturally appropriate care choices and realities for community members residing in marginalized and lower-income communities.

It is the vision and intentions of the M.I. Mother’s Keeper Mental Health Advocates organization to help improve the quality of living for citizens living in our Nation’s Capital and beyond by overseeing the delicate linkage to services and by maintaining higher standards of care accountability for deserving citizens of the Nation’s Capital.

For more information or to enroll as one of our service providers, please email us at: