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Biophilia and Mental Health Awareness

Updated: Oct 11, 2019

October 10th marks World Mental Health Day, with the World Federation for Mental Health designating this year’s theme as suicide prevention. In the UK, 1 in 4 people will be affected by a mental illness during their lifetimes; therefore, it’s important that we continue to talk openly about managing mental health and the various steps we can take to improve our personal well-being.

· In 2018, Samaritans found that UK suicide rates rose by 11.8%, with men being three times more likely to die from suicide compared to women.

· Suicide is also the largest killer of men under the age of 45 in the UK.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders V (DSM-5) currently recognises more than 450 mental disorders, with the most common including anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Mental illnesses can result in both physical and mental stress: e.g. weight loss, insomnia, and suicidal thoughts.

Moreover, looking after a loved one experiencing a mental illness can be extremely stressful, creating a secondary impact of the individual sufferer’s disorder; e.g. the carer may experience a physical or emotional stress-related response to this pressure such as insomnia, fatigue or anxiety. This secondary impact of an individual’s mental illness can also worsen their initial condition, as they may experience guilty feelings or consider themselves to be burdensome.

Employers are now actively seeking to effectively reduce stress in the workplace; from introducing yoga sessions, team bonding days or visiting emotional support animals. It appears that the trajectory of business culture is going in this direction, with so many options to both support and incentivise modern workers! The World Health Organisation reported that 80 million workdays are lost annually due to poor mental health, costing businesses £1-2 billion pounds per year. However, if companies invest in mental health first aid or related resources, then they are simultaneously investing in the wellbeing of their employees and their productivity.

Furthermore, there are several holistic ways in which we can seek to improve our mental

well-being. Edward O. Wilson’s term, ‘biophilia hypothesis’, refers to the idea that humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other living things.

So, what happens when nature or ‘green architecture’ is incorporated within a professional environment? Biophilic architecture is defined as ‘the environment that strengthens life and supports the sociological and psychological components’. Correspondingly, studies have shown that aquarium installations within clinical environments (e.g. doctors’ waiting rooms) can have a calming effect, with patients experiencing up to 12% less anxiety as a result of their presence.

Equally, a study at the National Marine Aquarium found that participants reported a positive boost in their overall mood after viewing the exhibits: especially those featuring a wide variety of fish species, colors, and décor! In today’s business culture of mass production and rapid growth, something as simple as taking time out to reflect and take in the natural scenery of an aquarium can be really calming. By providing these small moments of escapism, dynamic installations such as aquariums are more than just aesthetically-pleasing décor as they subtly help to maintain a tranquil and positive environment.

Mental health helplines in the UK:

· Mind, 0300 123 3393

· Samaritans, 116 123

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