Art for Behavioral Health

Contributed by Hank Hancock
January 9, 2018

We are of course very interested to read about innovations in art installations for behavioral health facilities. These spaces present unique and serious challenges – such as no ligature points or sharp edges.

And among healthcare facilities, behavior health centers are especially in need of positive distraction. With so many design restrictions in place, too many of them operate without adequate art programs.

This story in Healthcare Design describes a non-profit group in England that was formed to address this specific need. Their solutions are quite interesting, and worth considering elsewhere. Painting directly on the wall-surface and printing floor to ceiling wall coverings are two strategies that introduce no inherent risks.

They also made sure to prepare and educate the participating artists, who interacted directly with residents. They…

held meetings with the artists and the hospital staff to discuss spaces on the unit where artwork could be incorporated, appropriate imagery and subjects, and safe materials, including nontoxic paints that could wipe clean and print media that could be installed without framing. They also talked with patients to find out what they thought would be more interesting and stimulating to see.

We’re curious about the goal of “stimulation.” Arousal theories have long been a matter of concern in the scholarly literature. As a result, high-stress environments typically call for designs that aim to limit restlessness, vigilance, or stress.

The success of the project in this case confirms how complex a role art may have be in the healthcare environment. In this case, stimulation – arousal – may have real benefits.