This article by Aditi Desai appears on the website of the Glasgow Insight into Science & Technology. It begins:
“The term ‘psych ward’ calls to mind grim, often uncomfortable, images: from the stereotypical “deranged” mental patient who is dangerously violent to the dreary environments in which patients are kept in. Such stereotypes, found abundantly in modern-day films and media, date back to early one-reel films such as The Maniac Cook (1909) and Psycho (1960), which feature violent individuals grappling with mental disorders in dark rooms.1
While Hollywood’s equating of mental illness to violence is far from true—and only perpetuates stereotypes that brand all individuals with mental disorders as dangerous— its portrayal of behavioural health facilities and psychiatric institutions as dreary, repressive, and unwelcoming does not stray far from reality.
For decades, mental health institutions, designed for patients who are in danger of self-harm, have prioritised safety over comfort2.
Such buildings, brimful of security locks and windowless rooms, focus on keeping patients as safe and distanced as possible. Often, patients are crowded in common rooms during the day and placed in isolated dorms at night. Although many of these facilities strive to make patients feel as if they are in the comfort of their own homes, their limiting architectural and design components compounded by a lack of nature only make patients feel increasingly secluded. Today, mental health issues do not carry nearly as much stigma as they once did.3
Awareness campaigns, doctors, public health officials, and patients have pushed our society to contextualise mental health as a critical portion of overall emotional and physical well being. Equipped with this knowledge and a more intensive understanding of the brain’s nuances, we are altering the way our society approaches—and designs for—optimal mental health …
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