Mental Health is a new "buzzword" in a post-pandemic world. However, there is nothing new about the challenges in designing safe spaces for mental health facilities! It might surprise you to know that 1 in 5 Canadians have suffered some form of mental illness or that by the age of 40, 50% of the population will have had or currently has a mental illness.
There are three primary purposes of Behavioral Health (BH) :
- Harm reduction, including ligature resistance, tamper-proof fasteners and other design cues to prevent harm.
- Weighted bases or the ability to secure it to the wall or floor will limit the ability to be thrown, used for a blockade or a weapon.
- Provide atmosphere and positive environments for healing
In 2020, there is no real reason not to tick each of these boxes when creating new mental health spaces. Over the last decade, there has been a significant progression in innovation and design cues to provide a warm and inviting space that provides all the safety required for a violent event.
We know that all mentally ill patients are not violent. In fact, a very low percentage of this population is considered violent or dangerous. So why would you bother with these specialized furnishings? The answer is simple. One injury or death is one too many!
Designers have created beautiful pieces with features that have considered the risks and safety features that are subtle yet very effective in harm reduction. These are the features to consider when ordering new furniture for mental health settings:
AESTHETICS: Soft and cheerful colours with gentle lines and unconstricted spaces provide calming and non-triggering environments.
DURABILITY: The structures of these chairs will typically have a heavier duty frame and fasteners that are tamper-resistant and built to withstand heavier use than standard furniture.
BOLT TO FLOOR: Most pieces that are less than 75 lbs will have the ability to bolt to the wall or floor so that they can't become a barricade or be thrown across the room.
ROUNDED CORNER: The risk of falls is reason enough to consider rounded soft corners but even more so when you have the potential for intentional harm, seizures or intoxication.
STABILITY: Behavioral health furniture should be stable and solid so as not to trigger phobias and to provide the element of security.
ABSENCE OF STORAGE: There is always the risk of contraband or sharps used for self-harm or violence in an In-patient setting.
These are only some of the modern design elements that make up the new and improved furniture pieces. It is pretty amazing to see how subtle the safety elements have been incorporated into elegant-looking products, normalizing and destigmatizing mental health healing spaces. No longer institutional but warm, friendly and safe!