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How to Support Mental Health Through Urban Planning

This group advocates designing cities with emotional well-being in mind.  
Men play chess in Hyde Park in Sydney.
Men play chess in Hyde Park in Sydney.Daniel Munoz/Reuters

The Tokyo-based psychiatrist Layla McCay founded the Center for Urban Design and Mental Health over a year ago, and it’s grown at a more rapid pace than she expected. “Be careful of finding an unmet need,” she jokes, noting that much of her time is now spent running the center. The organization aims to harness knowledge about urban design and mental health that is already out there, but isn’t being shared as much as it could, particularly with policymakers who can implement it.

The center also works to foster more research. “For instance,” McCay says, “we know that green space is good for mental health, but there are a lot of questions. What kind of green space? How can we make sure people want to use it?” McCay brings together scholars from different disciplines—architecture, urban planning, geography, psychology—to work on such questions and raise awareness of the answers they generate.