How mental health TVs are boosting patient wellbeing

This article explores how modern mental health TVs are helping to create therapeutic settings which promote recovery

Televisions are important in mental health settings as they help to create a more-homely environment that promotes recovery

When designing mental health environments, it is increasingly accepted that, while striving to ensure buildings are safe, patients should not feel as though they are being punished.

With this in mind, health design guidance states that entertainment services, in the form of fixed or portable televisions and multi-media radio/music systems, may be provided in service user bedrooms and other key areas to ‘help facilitate the creation of a personal domestic environment and a relaxing atmosphere’.

Dan Vesty of Tough Furniture explains: “TVs in mental health bedrooms can play an important role in keeping service users connected with the outside world, as well as going some way towards fulfilling their needs for connection with other people.”

But just putting a TV on a stand, or fixing it to a wall, clearly poses a threat. Graham Gallagher, director of ProEnc, which supplies entertainment solutions to mental health trusts around the world, said: “There are several things to think about when TVs are installed into mental health units.

TVs in mental health bedrooms can play an important role in keeping service users connected with the outside world, as well as going some way towards fulfilling their needs for connection with other people

“Usually the screens are wall mounted on wall brackets, which could pose a ligature risk; they have cables for power and an aerial, which are both accessible on standard screens; and the screens themselves can be smashed and used as a weapon or to self harm.”

ProEnc’s solution fully encloses the TV and cables, preventing anyone other than authorised staff from accessing the TV via two high-security locks. In addition, the viewing window is the thickest in the industry, with the enclosure preventing damage to the TV should anything be thrown at it; and the case and door are made from steel.

ProEnc also designed its enclosure to come as standard with thermostatic cooling, a TV bracket, and an audio vented door so the TV can be heard while the door is locked.

Modern solutions, such as Tough Furniture's range of anti-ligature TV cabinets, are designed to be safe and to fit in with the hotel-style interiors of modern psychiatric units

“Estates and facilities managers should be looking at solutions that will last for a good number of years and the strongest material should be used,” said Gallagher.

“The locks should be high security and not cam or compression locks, as these are easily forced open.

“The audio from the TV is a crucial element, too, and the ability to hear the TV while the door is locked is essential to ensure service users get the best-possible experience while receiving treatment for their illness.

“They should also consider a solution that will futureproof the initial purchase, so when the facility replaces the TV in a number of years, the same enclosure will accommodate a larger-screen TV.”

Vesty adds: “Tough Furniture pioneered the development of cabinets specifically to protect televisions, computers and other vulnerable items from challenging behaviours, using lockable screens of polycarbonate, an immensely-strong plastic material.

“As with so many of our innovations, it was the customers who then took the idea further, requesting units for protected display of notices or artwork to brighten up the living/working space, and even for the protection of fishtanks.” As TVs evolved to flatscreens, so the protection cabinet design followed.

ProEnc's enclosures come with thermostatic cooling and an audio vented door

Vesty said: “On both our wall-mounted and floor units, we also use a heavy-duty inset strip hinge for the unit door, which significantly reduces the likelihood of its being damaged or wrenched off.

“In the case of our wall-mounted units, the design allows us to remove any visible screws or boltheads, which increases both the security of the cabinet and the aesthetic appeal.”

These aesthetics plays a major role in ongoing design work.

“We are always striving to create a homely, therapeutic effect from the furniture we produce – avoiding excessive ‘institutionalism’ - and our TV cabinets are no exception, as they are produced in attractive woodgrains that help to create the right ‘domestic’ feel,” said Vesty.

We are always striving to create a homely, therapeutic effect from the furniture we produce – avoiding excessive ‘institutionalism’ - and our TV cabinets are no exception, as they are produced in attractive woodgrains that help to create the right ‘domestic’ feel

“We’ve also recently invested in vinyl wrapping technology that will allow us to significantly increase the range of colours and woodgrains we are able to offer, and these will be on the market soon.”

Offering advice to specifiers, he adds: “Make sure whatever solution you choose has a genuine polycarbonate viewing panel rather than an alternative material such as Perspex, as only polycarbonate is strong enough for mental health environments.

“It’s also important to make sure you get the right-sized cabinet, particularly if you are looking for one that will also store other media devices, as cabinets that are too tightly packed with equipment can cause problems when it comes to air circulation and heat dissipation.”

Companies