Making mental health environments homely and ‘normalised’ can be a challenge when considering the somewhat-conflicting need for safety and security. But manufacturers are increasingly realising this and, as a result, a new generation of innovative products is hitting the market.
More recently, this has included specialist picture frames and noticeboards.
A sense of ownership
Dan Vesty, managing director of Tough Furniture, explains: “In our experience picture frames and noticeboards can play a vital part in humanising the environment of psychiatric facilities through the display of calming, meaningful images, such as those of a service user’s families, nature scenes, etc.
“They can also be used to house work produced by service users themselves in art therapy classes, which hopefully gives them a real sense of ownership over their environment.”
Tough Furniture’s Anti-Ligature Noticeboard (ALNB) has been one of the manufacturer’s most-successful products for the last few years.
It is fully lockable and made from solid Ash hardwood to give it both robustness and an attractive, homely appeal.
Offering advice to specifiersVesty says: “In the case of noticeboards and picture frames, one key area of risk would be in the use of less shatter-resistant materials such as acrylic/Perspex for the viewing panels, as this material would be highly unlikely to survive in a challenging environment.
“Another issue is that readily-available standard products will tend to look mass produced and institutional, which can have a negative impact on the homely feel that most psychiatric environments are now aiming for.
“Genuine mental health products should always use polycarbonate for the vision panel, as this offers dramatically-more impact resistance than Perspex, and can also have more flexibility designed in to enhance its security.
“And anti-ligature products should also feature minimal visible fixings and reinforced strip hinges, rather than standard hinges. Any fixings that are visible should be tamper resistant throughout.”
Lucentia Design studio
Lucentia, recently created bespoke picture frames for Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust’s new mental health inpatient wards in Chorley.
Its creative director, Stella Corrall, told hdm: “It is important to ‘normalise’ the environment, and, when you get this right, the added interest goes a long way to supporting service user recovery.
“However, with off-the-shelf products the concerns would conflict with this and can lead to lack of interest and subsequent focus for misuse.”
Its bespoke frames were designed with input from staff members to enable artwork to feature in communal areas and patient bedrooms.
Corrall said: “As these designs evolve we are focusing on breaking down the ‘them and us’ culture in mental health facilities.
“We are soon to offer interchangeable patient artwork display cases for activity rooms and this goes some way towards empowering the patient voice through self expression.”
Vesty adds: “The main potential for continued innovation in this area is in increasing the range of materials used to provide even more flexibility in appearance, and making products which are ever more suited to creating therapeutic, non-institutional environments.”