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Housing design guidelines launched to assist those living with persistent mental health conditions

Housing design guidelines launched to assist those living with persistent mental health conditions
15 Nov 2016

Ireland takes lead in publishing housing design guidelines to encourage independent living for those with persistent mental health conditions

Today the Housing Agency together with the HSE launched first of its kind design guidelines for those providing accommodation for people living with persistent mental health conditions. This is the first time any such design guidelines targeting this cohort of the population have been produced anywhere in the world. The Housing Agency and the HSE have drawn together best practice in home design for people living with enduring and life altering mental health conditions into design guidelines to help facilitate independent living.

The guidelines can be used by anyone supporting those living with mental health conditions (e.g. health care professionals, architects, designers, builders, families, individuals, Local Authorities, Housing Bodies, etc). The aim is to help overcome some of the obstacles to and reduce the amount of assistance required for a person with a persistent mental health condition to maintain and run their home.

The Design for Metal Health - Houing Design Guidelines is available here

Some recommendations included in the guidelines are:

  1. Maximizing daylight, reducing noise exposure in the built environment (all of which can exacerbate mental health issues if not designed into homes)
  2. Ensuring natural elements such as plants and views of the natural environment from windows (can reduce stress and diminish cognitive fatigue)
  3. Low maintenance accommodation and gardens (reducing need for additional support)
  4. Monitored smoke, gas, heat, CO2 detector alarms (also controls with audio and touch based clues for ease of use)
  5. Use of appliances that are undemanding and straightforward to operate e.g one action to turn on and off
  6. Ensuring homes are located in diverse, active communities close to essential amenities and support services

Speaking at the launch of the report today Mr John O’Connor Chief Executive of the Housing Agency said the following: “This housing design guide is the first of its kind anywhere in the world. Drawing on best practice and the experience of mental health experts and others we hope that this guide will make it easier for those living with enduring mental health conditions to live independently in our communities. We know that small changes in house design and layout can have a hugely positive impact on people living with Mental Health conditions. Over the past 10 years we have seen a huge change in how buildings have been modified to help those with physical disabilities to live independent lives. Now it’s time to bring that focus to support those living with mental health conditions so that they too can live independent lives in a safer environment.”

Speaking at the launch today Minister Helen McEntee T.D. said the following: “Government policy is to support those with enduring mental health conditions to move from congregated settings to live in the heart of their local communities. With these design guidelines Ireland is leading the way in focusing the minds and talents of people who support those with mental health conditions to create homes appropriate to their needs. Equipping people to live independent lives is at the core of government policy in this area”

Speaking at the launch today one of the report authors HSE occupational therapist Aine O’Reilly said the following; “I know from my work with people living with challenging mental health conditions that leading a fulfilling, independent life matters a great deal to many of them. I was also aware that no guidelines existed for architects, builders or designers to help guide them on how to best design and layout a home for this section of the population. This guide is the result of the work of a group of mental health professionals, architects, housing providers, service users and carers, assistive technologists and building project managers who worked with the aim of bringing together their expertise to address this information gap. We’re hoping this guide will be a practical design manual that will help hundreds of people with mental health conditions every year to live more fulfilling, independent and happier lives.”