Introducing the EDL’s Campus Landscape Health Survey & Project

Where within the outdoor environment do people choose to go when provided with a variety of options offered by the University of Wisconsin campus? 

The EDL’s newest research project is in motion! In both past and present research, exposure to green space has been shown to consistently decrease stress, when depicted through a dose-response model. The Campus Landscape Health project will build on the existing research to consider the impact of different types of green spaces on students experiencing mental distress. 

What is the campus landscape health project?

In order to better understand students’ experiences in outdoor environments, a survey will prompt students to answer a series of questions in response to this topic. These questions will ask where students go on campus to access the types of green spaces they prefer to visit when experiencing mental distress. The survey considers how someone’s identity, especially their health history, impacts their preferences. 

What is mental distress?

Mental – or psychological – distress refers to non-specific symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression. Mental distress may indicate the initial stage of major depressive disorder, anxiety disorder, schizophrenia, and other variety of clinical conditions. An increasing number of people with mental distress is a major public health problem and is more commonly experienced by women and the younger generation.  

What are the major symptoms?

Since the symptoms of mental distress vary so much depending on the individual, most of the symptoms are neglected and ignored by the patients. According to NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, early identification and treatment leads to better outcomes and lower the chance of potential long-term disability and years of suffering. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the most commonly found symptoms and seek help. 

Here are a set of symptoms that you should be alerted with…

  1. Feeling overwhelmed, helpless, or hopeless
  2. Feeling guilty without a clear cause
  3. Excessive fear
  4. Spending a lot of time worrying
  5. Sleeping too much or little
  6. Having unexplained aches and pains
  7. Pulling away from people and things
  8. Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger
  9. Avoiding social interactions
  10. Extreme mood swings including uncontrollable highs or feelings of euphoria

Examining the importance of mental health to college students

The importance of mental health to college students is a complex, and salient topic at the present moment. The rise of challenges to mental health is often experienced by college students when they make a transition from their hometown to university. Throughout one’s academic career, many students experience emotional and mental strain as a result of strenuous classes compiled with other life stressors. Poor mental health contributes to various aspects of students’ lives, such as motivation, close relationships, life satisfaction, and more. 

What are the future applications of the project?

Relying on students and their responses allows the university to better understand how to build a campus that supports positive well-being rooted in the human experience. The various spaces offered on the survey – such as hardscapes, tree covered-lawns, and enclosed wooded areas – will likely mean different things to various groups of people.In the future, the university can continue to prioritize enhancing and creating spaces to support health with the results of the EDL’s project. The findings will clarify what qualities within a space students find the most supportive, and further consider how different identities are impacted by the spaces. It is crucial to understand this so the campus is a place where the health of students is supported during their time in and outside of classes. A functional, enjoyable campus environment holds in balance a space for everyone to feel welcomed, and the EDL is excited to explore the results. 

Written by Brianna Stevens and Wendy Bae