Look Around, Look Within: How Our Environments Impact Our Mental Health

Healthy Ozarks
3 min readMay 24, 2023

By Aaron Schekorra, Public Health Information Administrator with Springfield-Greene County Health

Take a moment to reflect on your surroundings. Are you in a safe environment? Do you have access to essential resources like nutritious food and safe housing? Is your home supportive of your physical and mental well-being? Do you have a support system of family or friends?

During Mental Health Month, challenge yourself to examine how various factors in your world can influence your mental health. Your birthplace, living conditions, education, work environment, social connections, economic stability, and other social determinants of health play a role in shaping your mental well-being. When these factors align favorably, you are more likely to experience better mental health. However, if it feels like the world is working against you, your mental health can suffer.

Many of these aspects of your physical environment may be beyond your immediate control and could be difficult or slow to improve. For instance, if you live in a neighborhood that is far from basic services and resources, and you lack reliable transportation, you probably can’t improve overnight. However, that does not mean that it is not worthwhile to seek those changes. In the meantime, there are steps you can take to improve your environment in smaller ways to protect your wellbeing:

  1. Foster connections within your neighborhood and community: Get to know your neighbors, engage in community support groups, and find ways you can improve your community.
  2. Connect with nature: Spend time in nature, whether it’s taking a hike, sitting in a city park, bringing plants indoors, or allowing natural light into your space.
  3. Make time for entertainment and recreation: Sometimes it can be hard to make time for fun, but it could not be more important. Doing something you love, whether that’s seeing a movie, playing board games with your family, reading a good book, or attending a sporting event. Hobbies and spending time with loved ones can reduce stress and improve your mood.

While taking these steps will improve your overall wellbeing by countering the negative impacts of social determinants of health, they are not a total replacement for improving your physical environment. That is why Springfield-Greene County Health offers the Community Health Advocate program. Advocates work with individuals and families in our community to improve their lives by connecting them to healthcare and community resources.

Working with an advocate can help you get connected with assistance for healthcare, housing, employment, education, childcare, and social-emotional support. If you’re interested you can call 417–874–1211 or email advocate@springfieldmo.gov.

If you are actively improving your surroundings but still struggling with your mental health, it may be an indication of a mental health condition. Take advantage of a free and private screening at MentalHealth417.com to gain insights into your situation and determine the next steps.

The world around us can evoke both positive and negative emotions, bringing forth joy, sadness, hope, and anxiety. Explore the Mental Health 417 hub to find valuable resources to improve your mental health, suggestions for making positive changes, and seeking help for mental health challenges.

Aaron Schekorra is the Public Health Information Administrator for Springfield-Greene County Health, a role he began in 2021. Prior to taking on this role, he served as the Outreach Coordinator for the department’s COVID-19 response. Schekorra’s education includes a Master’s in Public Administration from Missouri State University and a Graduate Certificate in Public Health from A.T. Still University. Aaron is currently working toward a Master’s in Public Health from A.T. Still University.