Designing Places to Reduce Depression

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Designing Places to Reduce Depression

Loneliness and social isolation are growing problems in the United States, which can worsen the effects of depression and other psychological disabilities.  Most planners, architects and other placemaking professionals know very little about how to address this issue. This unique workshop will help you explore how to make public spaces — such as parks — better places for people who are too often overlooked in placemaking.

Working with Kelsey Zlevor, an urban planner who specializes in trauma-informed placemaking you can:

*Learn how the mix of fixed and temporary objects, and programming, in public spaces affect the experiences of people with psychological disabilities.

*Explore artful ways to engage people with psychological disabilities, so you can gather more valuable data, and help them be more effective collaborators in placemaking.

*Develop ideas for spaces and places you work with.

This session will illuminate the initial findings of Mental Landscapes, a professional ethnographic research project that spans 20+ interviews with park-users across various identities who experience depression. Kelsey will begin surfacing how to incorporate the lived experiences, trends, needs, and considerations of people living with psychological disabilities into park and public space design.

With these findings as a catalyst, this session will foster hands-on design, imagination, and conversation around inclusive design through the lens of psychological disability. Attendees will participate in a series of playful design activities focused on building representations of memories and spaces where participants experience the core Mental Landscape design amendments: ease, observation, affinity for nature, and awe. Participants will then have the opportunity to workshop spaces unique to their personal community in a group setting. Creations from the workshop will feed directly into a broader conversation about developing the next steps of this work.

About Kelsey Zlevor

With a background in creative writing, environmental science, and urban planning, Kelsey is a spatial strategist and design researcher at the convergence of planning policy, climate justice, and social change. Kelsey is the keeper of Mental Landscapes, an on-going body of independent trauma-informed research and scholarship that centers psychological disability in park and public space design. She is a Senior Associate at Muse, a Chicago-based women-owned planning firm, and holds a master’s of Community and Regional Planning from the University of Oregon and a B.A. in Environmental Science from the University of Iowa.

The workshop will take place at the Fairleigh Dickinson University Student Union Building, 1000 River Road, Teaneck, NJ.

You can also register here for the free Connections Conference for Professionals: Summit on Combatting the Loneliness Epidemic, which will take place January 11, 8:30 am to 12:30 pm, with a free lunch afterwards.  Kelsey Zlevor will be doing a breakout session on Mental Landscapes during the conference.

This workshop is produced by the Northern New Jersey Community Foundation (NNJCF), in partnership with The Community Chest. NNJCF works to enhance places to improve quality of life for all people in North Jersey.

Proceeds from this event will help support the Northern New Jersey Community Foundation’s Places of Belonging and Opportunity initiative. This suite of programs and projects works to make places throughout North Jersey better for all residents, workers and visitors; encourage equitable economic development; and enhance economic opportunity for low- and moderate-income residents of North Jersey.


January 11, 2024
1:30 pm - 4:00 pm


Northern New Jersey Community Foundation
View Organizer Website


Fairleigh Dickinso University Student Union Building, 1000 River Road, Teaneck, NJ
1000 River Road
Teaneck, NJ United States
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