Tips and considerations when designing for behavioral and mental health

Tips for designing for behavioral and mental health banner

Affecting more than 89 million people in North America with more than $250 billion in spending and resources annually, mental illness and substance abuse disorders are serious healthcare issues.

Behavioral and mental health (BMH) facilities require solutions that can facilitate treatment while prioritizing the safety and security of patients, visitors, and staff. Material specified in these areas must be able to meet the following points: 

Does this material promote healing?

While this seems like an obvious objective, it needs to be remembered that the primary goal of BMH facilities is to provide treatment.

Gone are the days of the sterile looking facilities.  Newer buildings are incorporating brighter, more optimistic colors into their design.  A more familiar, residential aesthetic allows patients to retain a sense of humanity during rehabilitation.
  • Natural finishes (wood, stone looks)
  • Increased light / outdoor views / secured outdoor spaces
  • Calming colors
  • Quieter spaces
  • Scenes and imagery from nature
  • Open floor plans
Does this material prevent harm?

This means preventing harm to others and to the patients themselves.  This is perhaps the most critical design element in BMH facilities. Every detail, furnishing, and finish needs to be considered carefully. 

Much of the built environment in BMH spaces uses fixtures that are designed specifically for this segment. Reducing things like potential ligature points are a top priority.
  • Open floor plans
  • Calming colors
  • Ligature-resistant design
  • Specialized details, trims, and accessories
  • Two-part adhesives and security sealant
Does this material foster safety and security?

It’s important to consider the needs of the patients when designing these spaces. Special consideration needs to be given to the patterns, color and construction of the flooring materials that is chosen. 
  • Correct use of LRVs
  • Appropriate slip resistance level
  • Underfoot comfort
  • Forgiving with falls
  • Correct trims and accessories that deter fixation and picking
BMH includes so many different conditions and types of treatment that it’s important to separate them into the different levels of care that are required. 

When designing low-risk zones, residential looks are appropriate and encouraged in communal spaces. Areas that fall into these categories include corridors, activity rooms, counseling rooms, interview rooms and staff or service areas.

Key considerations
  • Selection of more residential-looking finishes and furniture is allowed and preferred
  • Use murals and printed artwork to calm and inspire; must be securely fastened to avoid tampering
  • With flooring avoid patterns and color combinations that could contribute to visual misperception
In high-risk Level III and IV zones, safety is the highest priority. These zones are where patients spend time alone with either minimal or no supervision.

Strict design guidelines must be followed in these areas to prevent self-harm by eliminating any potential hazards, particularly fixtures that could serve as ligature points. High-risk areas include patient rooms (semiprivate or private), seclusion rooms, patient toilet rooms and showers.

Key considerations
  • Continuous sheet vinyl with heat-welded seams
  • Tamper-resistant floor to wall transitions
  • Monolithic floor sloped to drains
  • Soap dishes - recessed into wall to hold toiletry items and eliminate potential ligature points
  • Drains and other fixtures must be ligature and tamper resistant
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Posted: 7/27/2020 7:10:50 PM by Jesse Wade | with 0 comments