Dr. Fullilove is a writer and social psychiatrist whose work has focused on urban mental health, the impact of displacement, and restorative urbanism. With our conference theme of “The Route to Recovery,” we look forward to learning about how our streets and other public spaces can help our communities heal from the pandemic and the injustices and challenges it magnified.
While she had been writing and practicing since the 1970s, her breakout 2004 book Root Shock: How Tearing Up City Neighborhoods Hurts America and What We Can Do About It helped transform how we think about the ongoing trauma caused by disinvestment and urban renewal in communities of color. Her follow-up book, Urban Alchemy: Restoring Joy in America’s Sorted-Out Cities, Fullilove identifies nine tools to heal both social and spatial divides in segregated and fractured U.S. cities.
This week, Project for Public Spaces sat down with Fullilove to talk about the pandemic and her most recent book, Main Street: How a City’s Heart Connects Us All, for which she visited main streets in 178 cities around the world to understand the role they play in our mental health and how we can become better stewards of their physical, economic, and social life.
Nate Storring: So how did you come to focus on cities from your background in mental health and social psychiatry?
Mindy Fullilove: I was doing research on the AIDS epidemic, and Dr. Rodrick Wallace and his partner Dr. Deborah Wallace pointed out that AIDS is linked to urban policies that had destroyed the integrity of inner city communities.
As a psychiatrist, I just became interested in the problem of how the “burning down” of a neighborhood links to a person’s risk behaviors. What’s going on? That led to studying the psychology of place, which led to studying cities.