Midweek Mental Greening

It’s not scheduled to be complete until 2011, but exciting construction started earlier this month on what sounds like will be an impressive – and green – new mental health center for the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System.

The new mental health center is the first of several reconstruction projects that will take place over the next five years within the Palo Alto VA, and according to Palo Alto Online, the new mental health center will:

  • Use natural lighting, landscaping, and other therapeutic design elements to promote a healing environment.
  • Use a single-story structure to offer patients easy access to outdoor spaces.
  • Provide landscaped views from patients’ bedroom windows.

“This groundbreaking is groundbreaking in terms of what is going to be built here,” U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo said. “When they enter the doors, everything there will be about healing them.”

Of course, using the design of a mental health hospital as an additional treatment tool itself isn’t a new idea (think of the Kirkbride Plan, which saw its boom in the late 1800s); however, that doesn’t make Palo Alto’s new mental health center any less groundbreaking. According to Dr. Bradley Karlin, Associate Chief Consultant of Psychotherapy and Psychogeriatrics for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, “the new center is innovative in its adoption of [the recovery] model, as recovery has not been emphasized in the development of other facilities.”

Plus, the Palo Alto VA’s new mental health center will also “replace one of the most seismically unstable buildings in the VA system,” according to Kerri Childress, the Palo Alto VA’s Director of Communications.

I wholeheartedly believe in the power of “green” recovery tools (obviously). Natural scenery, fresh air, and sunlight – I believe they’re all effective means for promoting recovery and mental wellness.

So, my question isn’t whether you think this new mental health center’s design and emphasis on “green” recovery will be effective (of course, you’re welcome to chime in with that if you want); rather, I want to know about your own experiences with “green” recovery.

Have you ever been to a mental health facility that used design elements such as the ones the new mental health center in Palo Alto will use? Or, have you ever consciously set out to use your own natural surroundings as recovery tools? Maybe scheduled a daily walk through a park or an hour of meditation surrounded by the trees, mountains, or beaches close to your own home? Even something as simple as raising your shades each morning to the sunlight flood your rooms?

If so, how did it all work for you? What’s your favorite “green” recovery tool?