The Senses and Mental Health in Healthcare Settings

Healthcare facilities are typically built to address physical problems, but research is continuously showing how intertwined our mental health is with our physical health. This is why it is important to design with mental health in mind and design to ease stress. Here is a look at how you can build patient trust with AV design and plan for a beautiful build that also gives patients peace of mind. 

The State Of Mental Health

First, it is useful to grasp just how widespread mental health struggles are. In the U.S. alone, an estimated 26% of adults live with a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in America, affecting a whopping 18.1% of the population (or roughly 40 million adults). 

Given their prevalence, anxiety and other mental health issues are a top concern for medical patients who are already facing stressful situations. The best architects and designers understand the need for stress-reducing design. They work to boost mental health by planning for AV and other tools to soothe frazzled nerves and contribute to wellbeing. 

The Impact Of The Senses 

It has been found that our five senses can influence the state of our mental health, even going so far as to make it worse or better. In fact, “what we see, hear, breathe and smell can impact mood and stress levels, which directly impact mental health.” (Lindberg) If patients are subjected to loud noises and larger crowds, for instance, their cortisol levels are likely to increase – which results in heightened feelings of stress. If someone is suffering from anxiety or depression, particularly in the winter months, simple exposure to sunlight (or even bright lights) can help improve overall mood and wellbeing. 

With this in mind, architects and designers can think through how patients and visitors in a facility are likely to be feeling from a mental health perspective. Since “even just the view of the forest from a hospital room helps patients who are feeling down,” plan to make use of all windows that offer natural light and scenic views when possible. Alternatively, consider incorporating interactive TVs, displays, or digital art that show nature scenes. 

It is also a good idea to explore the use of sound (and silence). For patients who are anxious, the sound of a gentle waterfall or rainfall might help them feel calmer – especially if they can choose the sound that soothes them most. For patients who are feeling overwhelmed and perhaps overstimulated, strategically using silence can give their senses a much-needed break. 

The options for using AV are nearly endless when it comes to practicing design with mental health in mind. We would love to help you design to ease stress and improve the mental health of your patients and visitors alike.

When it comes to healthcare projects, it is important to design with mental health in mind. Let’s chat about the various solutions that can address this.