Designing for Safety and Wellbeing in Behavioral Health

By Rebecca Dean, Business Furniture Healthcare Thought Leader

Behavioral health refers to the connection between our behaviors, emotions, and mental well-being, encompassing various conditions and disorders that affect how we think, feel, and act. It includes mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder, as well as substance abuse and addiction. Behavioral health conditions affect 1 in 5 adults in the US each year.

For me, behavioral healthcare design is about creating spaces for the complex needs of patients and staff. Safety isn’t just a matter of physical security; it extends to emotional well-being, promoting therapeutic environments that foster healing.

Here are a few things to keep top of mind:

Material and Finishes: Ensuring the safety of patients and staff starts with the materials used in the environment. It is crucial to opt for materials that are not sharp, hard, or breakable. Soft, rounded edges can mitigate potential harm and create a safer atmosphere.

Furniture: Furniture in behavioral health spaces must be tamperproof. This goes beyond aesthetics; it’s about designing with the understanding that certain elements need to be secure and resistant to tampering for the wellbeing of everyone involved.

Ligature-Resistant Design: A critical aspect of behavioral health design is creating ligature-resistant spaces. This involves eliminating elements that could be used for self-harm or harm to others, emphasizing the importance of thoughtful design in safeguarding individuals.

Diverse Spaces for Diverse Needs: Acknowledging that different spaces within the same building cater to different needs is paramount. From constant supervision rooms to minimal supervision rooms, each space must be tailored to the specific behavioral health requirements it serves.

Emotional Safety: Protecting against emotional harm is as crucial as physical safety. Incorporating therapeutic design principles promotes psychological wellness through light, color, and other sensory considerations. These elements create less stressful spaces, lowering the likelihood of aggression and violence.

Universal, Not Uniform, Design: Uniformity is not the answer in behavioral health design. Instead, embracing universal design principles ensures that spaces cater to a diverse range of ages and behavioral health needs. This approach fosters inclusivity and promotes an environment where everyone feels considered.

Flexibility is Key: Behavioral health needs vary greatly, and spaces should be flexible enough to support individuals of all ages and diverse behavioral health requirements. A one-size-fits-all approach won’t suffice.

Therapeutic and Welcoming Design: Striking a balance between therapeutic and welcoming design is crucial. While a home-like environment may be comforting for some, it’s essential to recognize that ‘home’ may not have positive connotations for everyone dealing with behavioral health issues. Creating a therapeutic and welcoming space and acknowledging the varied perspectives of the occupants contribute to a holistic healing environment.

Designing for behavioral health involves much more than meets the eye. It’s about creating spaces that prioritize physical and emotional safety and acknowledge the diversity of needs within the behavioral health spectrum.

By adopting a thoughtful and holistic approach to healthcare design, we at Business Furniture can make a difference in the lives of those who need it most.

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