World-first guidelines published to help those living with mental health conditions

The Housing Agency and HSE have drawn up best practice advice

World-first guidelines published to help those living with mental health conditions

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Housing design guidelines to assist those living with persistent mental health conditions have been launched by the Housing Agency and the Health Service Executive (HSE).

These guidelines are to encourage independent living.

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 HSE have drawn together best practice in home design for people living with enduring and life altering mental health conditions (e.g. some forms of schizophrenia, dementia) into design guidelines.

The guidelines can be used by anyone supporting those living with mental health conditions - such as health care professionals, architects, designers, builders, families, individuals, local authorities and housing bodies.

The groups say 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.

Some recommendations included in the guidelines are:

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

Speaking at the launch, chief executive of the Housing Agency John O'Connor said: "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 conditions like schizophrenia or dementia.

"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."