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 Furniture For Mental Health Facilities – What Makes The Difference?

 

Mental health care furniture has a different performance level compared to ordinary furniture. It not only has to withstand the strains that come with challenging behaviours, but also the regulations in place for mental health units.

This blog aims to set out the key benefits of furniture for mental health facilities and people with challenging behaviours – these include:

  • Product strength
  • Ease of cleaning
  • Security
  • Biophilic design
  • Anti-Ligature features

Read on to find out more…

 

Furniture Designed And Built To Be Strong

Mental health settings can be volatile at times. It’s not uncommon for patients or users to try and damage their surroundings, including furniture and fixtures.

Standard cabinet furniture will typically be manufactured from chipboard or similar low-impact materials. Although suitable for standard residential or commercial facilities, these materials are likely to perform far less robustly in the more challenging mental health environments.

Materials such as melamine-faced MDF generally perform to a much higher level in challenging environments, particularly when reinforced by solid timber, and the thoughtful application of specialist reinforcement components such as heavy-duty steel drawer runners, back blocks, double-cranked or 270-degree door hinges and heavy-duty strip hinges.

All of the above represent key features that specifiers should look for when researching furniture for mental health environments.

Easy To Clean Furniture – Wipeable

Ensuring that spaces are clean and hygienic is a prime consideration for all healthcare environments. This is something to be considered in all rooms, not just communal and kitchen areas.

Dependent on an individual’s mental health condition, a variety of incidents or accidents can occur. Living and dining spaces that will have food and drink in should include wipe clean seating and tables.

Mental health bedroom furniture should include a moisture-resistant mattress, and again follow the basic guideline that all exposed surfaces are wipe clean. It’s also worth considering protecting electricals, such as TV or computer equipment that could be in the firing line of spillages.

Authorised Access Only

For specifiers looking to ensure high levels of safety in mental health environments, access and security are also key considerations.

Having a secure locking system that can only be accessed via authorised personnel can be paramount to a service user’s safety, so specialist furniture for mental health should always include options for locking, including on individual drawers and cupboard doors.

High value or vulnerable items such as TVs also require some extra thought from a security point of view. Lockable cabinets that fully encase both the TV and any peripherals, including any trailing wires, should be a key consideration when specifying in challenging environments.

Safety and the drive for therapeutic environments – finding the balance

At this point is it important to point out that although considerations of service user safety are always of central importance in specifying furniture for mental health environments, in recent decades the aspirational move towards creating less institutional, more therapeutic environments for individuals suffering from mental health issues has become of increasing importance.

So, anyone specifying furniture for these environments should also be taking into account the aesthetic of that environment – furniture needs to be robust and safe while retaining a homely, domestic feel as far as possible.

Increasingly, designers and specifiers in the mental health field are keen to move away from custodial-type furniture manufactured in metals or plastics, and even the perennially popular and hard-wearing compact laminate materials used in many challenging environments are coming to be seen as too institutional by many designers and specifiers.

On this front, principles such as biophilic design, which encourages the use of natural products such as wood grains, plant fibres etc may be of particular use in creating more therapeutic environments – assuming they can always be used in a way that also delivers the robustness and security required.

Furniture With Anti Ligature Features

The need to mitigate ligature risk is frequently highlighted in government documentation, for example, The Department of Health Building Note 03-01, which states:

“All furniture and fittings are required to be robust, anti-ligature, prevent opportunities for concealment and meet infection control requirements while being as domestic in style as possible and not offering opportunities for easy lifting or breakage.”

Specifiers should seek products that incorporate anti-ligature elements, for example, sloping tops for wardrobes, anti-ligature headboards for beds, anti-ligature shelves, TV cabinets with sloping or curved profiles, noticeboards with recessed strip hinges and sloping profiles, and curved edge mirrors.

 

Conclusion

When specifying furniture for mental health environments, there is a huge variety of specialist issues that need to be taken into consideration. All possible outcomes need to be studied as part of a risk assessment. This will then allow you to make the best selection decisions, with the safety of the end-users in mind.

For a solution that’s driven by the needs of those most vulnerable, talk to one of our experts today. Tough Furniture manufacture all furniture in-house, here in the UK. Furniture is delivered to the room and assembled by a specifically trained team.

If your project requires bespoke furniture, our in-house designers can also work alongside you to ensure your vision is achieved.

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