Transforming Clinical Gloom, To Let Mental Health Bloom

Living on a mental health ward can be a strange and scary experience. Clean, clinical and functional, they’re set up to help people get better. However, these spaces can sometimes make things feel worse, especially if you are a young person.

Long stays on wards without parents, family or friends can be another mental challenge in itself. Being away from home comforts and living in a strange environment can certainly be uncomfortable.

So, to help make things a bit more comfortable, the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital Trust decided it was time to make a positive change to their CAHMS ward environment, one that made sense. And that’s when they got in touch with our team of sensory experts.

Making Sense of Spaces

We were tasked with transforming an underused room in the CAMHS ward into a new Sensory Hub. A hub that could be used for a wide range of multi-sensory activities, for psychiatrists to practice new ‘Sensory Modulation’ therapies, and for patients to relax, day or night, in a safe and comforting environment. It presented our design team with a challenge that they were excited to solve.

Our Design Solution

Much like we create sensory spaces to engage each of the five senses – we wanted to make sure the new sensory hub could be used to uplift and support each of the ward’s functions.

Calming Sensory Corner

Fitted with soft padding and comfy seating, the Calming Sensory Corner offers patients a safe place to reattune their senses and relax. The endless lights of the Infinity Tunnel coupled with the bubbling balls of the Hurricane Column provide a dreamily distracting visual stimulation, perfect for taking restless minds to a calmer space. So whether it’s a safe space to unwind after an intense day or a place to go if they’re struggling to sleep – the calming corner is there for them.

Key ElementsHurricane ColumnPodiumInfinity TunnelFloor & Wall PaddingTherapy Rocker.

Safe Entertainment and activities

We realised that the sensory hub could transform into a social hub for patients to play and socialise together. An Omi Vista lets users transform the floor into an immersive interactive surface, giving them control over their environment and helping them feel more in control of themselves, whether that’s chasing fish through projected ponds or a feeling of satisfaction after popping the balloons at their feet. An Apple TV and Xbox station was a necessary addition for older users to enjoy entertaining themselves. We housed them in a protective anti-ligature cabinet to ensure they stayed safe when the room is being used for de-escalation activities.

Key ElementsOMI Interactive Floor Projector, Apple TV & Xbox housed in a protective anti-ligature cabinet.

De-escalation Space

Sensory areas need to be safe for users to release their energy and emotions, so we actively designed an area just for that.
Special Bumpa Walls were placed around the room to be used as colourful punch bags and cushioned bumpers for more physical activities. To help mediate emotions, we used a mix of sound and lighting cues to help calm users down. From twinkling fibre optics in the ceiling, mood-inducing interactive colour control LED wall washes, and an encompassing Bluetooth sound system, allowing users and therapists to create an environment that will work on an individual level.

Key ElementsFibre Optic CeilingWall Wash with Colour Controller Cube, Bluetooth Sound System

Counselling and Patient Consultation

Finding the right environment to talk personally about mental health is really important. So we thought the safe sensory hub could be an ideal space for counselling or consultation sessions, especially for younger children who might not respond well to formal environments.

With comfy colourful seating all at the same height, for personal and unjudgmental conversations, and an LED Sky Ceiling to provide a bright and calming visual distraction, creating a peaceful environment for individuals to speak openly.

Key ElementsLED Sky CeilingModular SeatingBench Seating, Anti-Ligature Storage

“Rhino UK have filled our specification to a great standard, turning our unused space into a lovely functioning calm space that our adolescents in crisis can use. The room has become a great tool for our CAHMS team”