For those of us who suffer from depression, we do not need to be told that our environment affects our wellbeing. Yet time and again we are reminded that policy makers don’t share the knowledge that the rest of us have.
We have a housing crisis in this country that affects the wellbeing of millions of people. From the shortage of housing that has been an abdication of the responsibility of governments over the past 30 years, to the way houses are built and the lack of social housing in general.
It is well know that housing in the UK has the smallest footprint of any domestic dwelling when comparing them with our comparable European neighbours. Some would say “size does not matter”, but when combined with the poor building practices of the construction industry in the UK and poor design, the chances of people getting from their housing not only what they want but what they need is slim.
Our environment and surroundings are key to people’s wellbeing. Studies have shown that poor housing or homelessness can contribute to mental illness or make coping with periods of mental illness more difficult. This is further compounded by the fact that poor housing and homelessness tend to go hand in hand with other forms of social exclusion like poverty.
Architects and commercial companies, at the pinnacle of the hierarchy within our construction and design industry, have sometimes been the worst to blame for this abdication of responsibility for a good environment within our homes. Housing has become a way of getting as many featureless boxes on a patch of ground as possible, to earn as much money as possible, rather than concentrating on the quality of the homes they produce.
Using solar gains in an intelligent way when buildings are built is key, not only to allow a substantial amount of light into a property, which obviously helps mental wellbeing, but also allows heat gains and can reduce heating bills.
Our housing is too small; too dark; badly insulated; expensive to heat and often poorly designed. We are years behind our European counterparts in Germany or Denmark for example, and while the government pontificates, our housing crises continues unabated.
The scandal of the past 30 years is coming home to roost. Mental Health problems are on the rise for many reasons, and the improvement of housing conditions and the availability of good quality housing to ALL would be just one small CHANGE that would help mental wellbeing.