This article is part of a three-part series design & mental health care, on the reciprocal relationship between mental health and design. Normally people associate design mainly with designers, this series is about design in all its diversity, from graphic design to the design of a residential area. By the way, visit this lil durk net worth.
More eye for the end-user
The living environment is everything that determines how people view themselves and others. Do you live among the greenery or do you look at towering apartment buildings every day? Anyone who studies environmental factors in humans that influence health will quickly end up with environmental psychology. This field emphasizes the role of environmental factors in human life. Not only do they guide the patterns of everyday life, but they also influence our view of the world and who we are. A funny historical example can be found in the Rotterdam working-class neighborhood Spangen, where architect Jacob Oud had high windows installed in residential apartments 100 years ago with the aim of making residents focus more inwardly than outwardly. He wanted to bring architecture and art together in order to stimulate residents to reflect on themselves. The opposite happened. As soon as residents got the chance, they built small podiums under the windows so they could talk to their neighbors while hanging out the window.
Architecture and health
When we talk about people as end-users of architecture, health is one of the important factors. For a long time, this was based on a definition of health as the absence of disease, or the occurrence of poor or harmful health. For example, many will feel a strong disgust when they see a mother smoking with a baby on her arm. But not so long ago, this image was an accepted part of society. Smoking in restaurants and airplanes was also completely normal. In two or three generations, much more attention has been paid to the influence of the environment on health. However, this conception of health remains stuck in the focus on health problems that need a solution.
From health to well-being
Much less often it is about health from the positive results, namely how architecture and the environment can bring about positive health. For example, care training often pays attention to pathology, medication, and treatment methods, but it is almost not about health itself and how this actually comes about. Also within architecture training, it is minimally about the experience and impact that buildings have on people’s health.
Well-being as a feeling of happiness
In well-being in relation to architecture, there are clearly measurable aspects, such as air quality, but also highly subjective aspects such as odor and comfort. It is precisely those subjective aspects that are not really easy to measure, but they are of value. Within architecture, it can be seen that the emphasis is increasingly on those subjective aspects. And with that, mental well-being comes into the picture or mental health.
Healing environment within the mental health care
This conception of well-being is also reflected in mental health care. In the relationship between architecture and mental health care, we often see the starting point of a healing environment. A healing environment is not the same as a healthy environment. The latter focuses on the prevention of disease, while the healing environment focuses on the psychological effects of health, such as reducing fear, establishing contact, and experiencing greater safety. This fits in well with the broader view of health as resilience. For example, sustainable and natural elements such as nature, daylight, fresh air, and silence are used.
However, we still see little of the healing environment in the majority of mental health institutions in the Netherlands. Not surprising, because when we look at current institutional areas, these are mostly old main locations of early general psychiatric hospitals. They are located in a wooded and green area and at some distance from the built-up core. The use of space on institutional grounds is therefore not very efficient and also does not meet the needs of the client.
Innovative mental health care
With this development, Redesigning Psychiatry joins a broader trend in which the environment is increasingly thought of in terms of enriching and developing mental well-being. If you are curious about what this looks like in practice, you should definitely continue to follow the developments at Landgoed Willibrord, owned by GGZ Noord-Holland Noord, in the coming years. There, Redesigning Psychiatry is working on a new mental health care system based on an ecological approach to psychological problems, which ultimately revolves around restoring and mending disrupted relationships