Behavioral Health Facility Design: Changes for the Better
In case you haven't heard, the World Health Organization has named October 10, 2012, as World Mental Health Day. The day promotes open discussion of mental disorders, as well as prevention, promotion, and treatment services. This year's theme is “Depression: A Global Crisis.”
While we typically leave the coverage of behavioral health issues to our sister publication Behavioral Healthcare, I thought today would be the ideal time to reflect on some of the design innovations in behavioral facilities that have become more and more prevalent across the U.S. Much like the transition of the acute care environment that took place in the last decade or so that saw a rejection of the old "institutional" models and an embracing of movements like Planetree and evidence-based design, and the distinct influence of the hospitality industry, the behavioral landscape is slowly but surely rolling out new facilities that embrace the idea of the healing environment.
While resident and staff safety will always be a primary concern in behavioral facilities, that doesn't mean the buildings need to look like 1960s state college dormitories. Healing gardens and reflective spaces are starting to turn up in more and more new facilities, as are public space and patient room designs that are purposefully deinstitutionalizing the environment while in turn destigmatizing behavioral health issues.
Evidence-based principles like access to daylight and views to nature not only make for more positive feelings around a facility, but also help to provide hope and dignity for the patients there. Mental health issues are often misunderstood, and so naturally are the patients. Design touches like these might be a given to us in the acute-care world, but for the behavioral health community, they make a world of difference. Let's hope this trend continues -- and grows -- in the coming years. These changes are most definitely a step in the right direction.