New Mental Health breaks electro shock taboo

​The Mental Health Services in the Capitol Region of Denmark hope to reduce the taboo surrounding electro shock treatment (ECT), by placing the clinic right by the main entrance to New Mental Health Bispebjerg.
Patients arriving for electro shock treatment (ECT) will find it a few steps to the right of the main reception. The ECT Clinic will be at the front in the main building, when New Mental Health Bispebjerg opens its doors in 2022. The prominent placement is a very conscious choice aimed at dealing with the taboo that comes with the treatment.

Treatment with prejudices

"There are many misunderstandings and prejudices associated with ECT," says Martin Balslev Jørgensen, professor, chief physician and ECT responsible at Rigshospitalet.

"When I tell people that I work with electro shock, many respond by saying," Are you still using it? Like they do in ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’?”. So a patient might not talk about having had ECT. Mental illness is still taboo, especially ECT as a form of treatment is something that may seem very stigmatising for those who have it," he says.

The ECT clinic will be placed in the main building right next to the reception in the 22,500 square meter Mental Health Centre, which is part of New Hospital and New Mental Health Bispebjerg. Illustration: Friis & Moltke and PLH Architects.

Precisely this, is what the placement and design of the new clinic needs to change.
ECT, which stands for "Electro Convulsive Therapy", was invented in the 1930s and has been developed as treatment for many years. It is usually given as a treatment to people with severe depression, where medication and therapy has not had the desired effect.

The treatment itself is quick. The patient is sedated and given a muscle relaxant, electrodes are placed on the head, after which a weak electrical current is delivered for a few seconds. The effect is quick and the treatment is the most effective for patients who do not respond to medication or therapy. Most people receive three treatments a week with a maximum of eight to twelve treatments in total.

Treatment should be comparable to physio therapy

Maria Brammer Boldt is part of the project management team for New Mental Health Bispebjerg and facilitator for the project group that has given the architects input to the ECT clinic's location in New Mental Health Bispebjerg. The project group consists predominantly of doctors and nurses who work with ECT on a daily basis at Herlev and Gentofte Hospital, Bispebjerg and Frederiksberg Hospital and at Rigshospitalet.

"We want to send a signal to the outside world that ECT is a treatment you don’t have to be ashamed of. It should be similar to physiotherapy or dentistry, and the clinic must therefore have a prominent and attractive location," says Maria Brammer Boldt.

"We want to send a signal that ECT is a treatment that is as necessary and important as going to the dentist or physiotherapist," says Maria Brammer Boldt, project manager for user involvement in The Capitol Region's Mental Health. Photo: Karen Grønkjær.

The physical framework creates peace and quiet

At the same time, the project group, through knowledge sharing and dialogue, has put a lot of effort into ensuring that the clinic's physical framework creates the peace and tranquillity that is crucial to patients.

"We have worked intensely with the layout of the clinic. For example, the waiting room overlooks one of the green outdoor areas, and the layout supports the workflow for optimal treatment, "says Maria Brammer Boldt.

Martin Balslev Jørgensen, who is also part of the project group, adds:
"It is a big step forward that patients in the new clinic don’t have to be transported via intricate hallways from the changing room to the treatment room. And that the transport of patients, from especially the closed wards, is not too long, but can be done discreetly and direct. "

The work on the ECT clinic continues. In the next stage it will focus on, among other things, calm sensory input in the interior design. The construction of New Mental Health Bispebjerg is planned to start in 2018 and is expected to be completed in 2022.

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