A 73-bed mental health centre, designed to look more like a home than a hospital, is set to accommodate more than 2,000 patients a year after it opens in Sydney on Thursday.
The $67 million centre, on the grounds of Camperdown’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, was named in honour of former New South Wales Governor Marie Bashir, who has dedicated much of her life to the field.
Professor Marie Bashir Centre included brightly coloured walls bearing images of terraces and city scenes, landscaped courtyards with panoramic views, a kitchen to teach patients basic cooking skills and a gym.
Its “chill-out zones” feature TV screens on ceilings beaming relaxing images of trees and waterfalls.
Professor Ian Hickie, from Sydney University’s Brain & Mind Research Institute, said he hoped the centre would become a world leader.
“This is the first time a university and a hospital have come together to develop a world-class facility based on research, based on bringing new brain science to apply in the area, and then new models of care,” he said.
Professor Hickie said the centre would treat a range of conditions, including eating disorders, and target adolescents to prevent mental health problems stretching into adulthood.
Sydney Local Health District director of nursing Clair Edwards said the centre also featured facilities to allow new mothers to care for their children while receiving treatment.
“The idea is that somebody who is experiencing a mental health problem after their baby is born will be able to have the baby room in with them once they’re well enough,” she said.
“That gives us an opportunity to look at how they are with developing their mothering skills, and it normalises for the mother the attachment to their baby despite their illness.”
Ms Edwards said the rooms had hidden features to prevent self-harm.
“It’s very much about it being a safe environment, but not it’s not a hostile or jail-like environment.”
NSW Health peer support worker Phil Escott, who has schizophrenia and supports others through their treatment, said the design would help patients overcome any fears about being in hospital.
“There’s also a sense of openness with the courtyards, there’s a sense of colour and there’s a sense of hope,” he said.
Sydney Local Health District mental health director Victor Storm said Dame Marie had inspected the centre and was delighted with it.
Dame Marie was honoured in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours List “particularly as an advocate for improved mental health outcomes for the young, marginalised and disadvantaged”.
This article first appeared on ‘ABC‘ on 12 November 2014.