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Australia’s Brilliant New Mental Health Facilities

wishbone spiralAnybody who has been in a mental health facility knows that it feels like a glorified jail.

The white walls, clinical design, and cramped spaces all contribute to an anxiety and unease that takes away from the healing purpose of the facilities.

The psychological impact of mental health centers is arguably as important as the direct functional design.

Recent research suggests that architectural designs that minimize noise and crowding while enhancing patient freedom and sense of control can reduce trauma and aggression.

Not a “Healing Place”

The stress of mental illness itself is intensified by the trauma of being confined, especially for long periods of time in a locked ward.

Teams of engineers, architects, interior designers, consultants, and clinical staff are working to improve the quality of mental health facilities in order to offset costs, improve patient care, and reduce lawsuits.

Critics say these changes, like single bedrooms with private toilets, will raise building costs, which is true. However, these costs are believed by experts to be offset the reduced trauma for patients and hospital workers.

Higher construction costs are often canceled out by the savings in additional medical care or lawsuits that ensue from violent situations.

St. Vincent Private Hospital

Sydney, Australia’s St. Vincent Private Hospital is trying to create a “home away from home” with their architectural design.

Many mental health care workers agree that by giving patients a familiar space as opposed to an institutional-like space, it discourages patients from taking on the role of someone who is ill.

Gold Coast University Hospital

Another Australian mental health facility at the Gold Coast University Hospital was named the Australian Institute of Architect’s Building of 2013.

The mental health unit is hailed as an innovator in healthcare and user needs.

The hospital sits on nearly 50 acres of thoughtful urban and landscape design that is said to create a therapeutic environment for patients.

The architects strived to ensure that the design was sustainable, and created a hospital in a park environment.

Gardens, bodies of water, ample views of the campus, and rest stops provide a place of healing.

My Take

The United States, and countries around the world, would do well to follow Australia’s lead in the improvement of design of mental health facilities.

It is known that mental illness is on the rise, and the need for hospital care will increase as well.

New facilities should consider sustainability, the mental state of patients, and the practicality of design.

We must also invest money to repair and improve mental health centers that are lacking these solutions.


What do you think of the design of the mental health facilities that you’ve been in? Do you like the ideas that are being implemented in the hospitals in Australia? 



Avis, K. (2013, April 26). Design of mental health unit improves therapeutic outcomes. Retrieved from

Avis, K. (2013, June 24). Design can reduce aggression in mental health facilities. Retrieved from


Photo Credit: paul bica via Compfight

Australia’s Brilliant New Mental Health Facilities

Kat Dawkins

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APA Reference
Dawkins, K. (2013). Australia’s Brilliant New Mental Health Facilities. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 29, 2020, from


Last updated: 24 Jun 2013
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