There is a strong case today for a specific focus on mental public health and its relation to social and physical environments. From a public health perspective, we now appreciate the enormous significance of mental distress and illness as causes of disability and impairment. Stress and anxiety, and other mental illnesses are linked to risks in the environment. This book questions how and why the social and physical environment matters for mental health and psychological wellbeing in human populations. While putting forward a number of different points of view, there is a particular emphasis on ideas and research from health geography, which conceptualises space and place in ways that provide a distinctive focus on the interactions between people and their social and physical environment. The book begins with an overview of a rich body of theory and research from sociology, psychology, social epidemiology, social psychiatry and neuroscience, considering arguments concerning 'mind-body dualism', and presenting a conceptual framework for studying how attributes of 'space' and 'place' are associated with human mental wellbeing. It goes on to look in detail at how our mental health is associated with material, or physical, aspects of our environment (such as 'natural' and built landscapes), with social environments (involving social relationships in communities), and with symbolic and imagined spaces (representing the personal, cultural and spiritual meanings of places). These relationships are shown to be complex, with potential to be beneficial or hazardous for mental health. The final chapters of the book consider spaces of care and the implications of space and place for public mental health policy, offering a broader view of how mental health might be improved at the population level. With boxed case studies of specific research ideas and methods, chapter summaries and suggestions for introductory reading, this book offers a comprehensive introduction which will be valuable for students of health geography, public health, sociology and anthropology of health and illness. It also provides an interdisciplinary review of the literature, by the author and by other writers, to frame a discussion of issues that challenge more advanced researchers in these fields.
Sarah Curtis is Professor of Geography at the University of Durham, UK
'As public, academic, and policy interest in mental health and well-being continues to grow, we need compelling social science contributions to the debates. Sarah Curtis offers a wonderful synthesis of research undertaken by those with a geographical imagination. This examination of the importance of place and spatial context is a timely and important book.' Tony Gatrell, Lancaster University, UK 'Sarah Curtis has produced a landmark work, deftly demonstrating the power of geographical perspectives in understanding how mental well-being is the product of inter-related material, social and symbolic environments. Inspired by complexity theory, this thought-provoking text weaves a critical and comprehensive journey across multi-disciplinary sources concerning the "relational spaces" of our mental health. Relevant and agenda-setting, Space, Place and Mental Health will be an essential and well-used resource for researchers, teachers and informed practitioners.' Hester Parr, University of Glasgow, UK 'Overall, in Space, Place and Mental Health, Curtis succeeds in providing an interdisciplinary synthesis of research. The depth of engagement with the theoretical and empirical work reviewed in the book allows the reader to gain a uniquely holistic understanding of a complex set of ideas. The author’s own photographs and commentary ground the high level theoretical ideas throughout and the landscape metaphors never feel laboured. The book takes the reader on a winding path through forests, disasters, dreams and clinics - it’s an enjoyable journey.' Journal of Housing and Built Environment 'For this reader, the book strikes the right balance between explaining new concepts in a clear and understandable manner for students at undergraduate level and satisfying the postgraduate need for comprehensive analysis of both research and theory.' Disability & Society