According to a recent report that was released this month by Jama Network Open, nearly 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. report some form of mental illness. With depression being the 2nd largest contributor to years lived with disability in the U.S., but only an estimated 5% of total medical care spending taking place on mental health services in the country, researchers continue to search for a solution to the mental health crisis in America.

Researchers have found that nature has a huge impact on our mental health and well-being. With urbanization taking place across the U.S, a demand for green space in lower income communities grow. A whopping 15% of land in cities is vacant and abandoned in the U.S. Many of these lots receive little to no care, leaving depressing backdrops in neighborhoods full of trashed land or dangerous fields that are more susceptible to criminal activity. These individuals who suffer most from physical and mental health tend to live in these lower economic backgrounds.

As we disconnect more and more from nature by urbanizing our cities, the mental health of our lower income communities become worse. The U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health suggests that creating more green space is a way to tackle the decline in mental health and well-being. Green space has been used to deliver “structured therapeutic interventions” for groups such as youth-at-risk, individuals with dementia, mental illnesses, probation and stressed employees.

Miranda Saldaña, an aspiring photographer, 7th grader at Sam Brannan Middle School, and resident of south Sacramento shared her views on adding green spaces to our community.

“Whenever I see a vacant spot it honestly makes me sad because I know it can have a greater purpose when you add green spaces to a neighborhood you open up more opportunities for someone to be able to express themselves”, Miranda says.

“People could get into photography or people who maybe have violent homes can have a place to go to instead of resulting to violence.”

Increasing access to green spaces could become a key component to improving the mental health in communities as well as easing the sadness that comes along with living in low-income areas. According to The Lancet, populations exposed to the greenest environments have had the lowest recorded levels of health inequality related to income deprivation. With green space often being associated with lower income-related health, there is a desperate need for our communities to come together and create more green space. If nature can help ease the mental health crisis in low-income communities, perhaps we should shift our focus to her.