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Design and Environmental Effects on Mental Health in Community Centers

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LOFT is an organization that provides community services since 1953 with an initiative to support the core principles mental health, wellbeing and psychosocial rehabilitation. It is located at 721 Bloor Street West, Toronto M6G 1L5 Suite 303.They serve the community with services of dignity and hope by offering them the safety, stability of housing and the practical support they need to take control of their lives. LOFT currently is one of the largest mental health service providers in Ontario serving around 4,600 individuals a year to overcome challenges of mental and physical health, serious mental illness, dementia, substance abuse issues, and cognitive impairment, vulnerable and homeless or threatened with homelessness.

LOFT is also currently the largest supportive housing provider in York Region and South Simcoe. Their programs include a mixture of services for youth, adults, seniors, all gender identities and all sexual orientations. All their programs offered are accustomed to take a practical approach to addressing community challenges by responding to needs with innovative programming that helps clients gain back control of their lives. They take a Recovery-Based approaches include programs accustomed to individual client goals, to help each client make their own choices of life. Their programs promote in creating communities of mutual support and help residents develop relationships through support networks to make decisions that impact their daily lives.

LOFT assures to clients become part of a supportive community where they will be served without judgment, and will be provided with housing for safety and security for a positive growth. LOFT supports the core principles of psychosocial rehabilitation.

LOFT community services have been part of the community’s one of the biggest supportive network to deal with mental and physical wellbeing, however, I believe some rearrangements in its design model structure can help them serve more successfully if better mental health considerations of both clients and workers work together as a single initiative among all the programs they offer.

I chose LOFT community services for my thesis as I have identified on how the environment affects the psychological state of people within the space. The environment plays a big factor as it can biologically determine the productivity of the users of the space. Moreover, poor working conditions can demoralize the work of social workers and leave them with feelings of emotional devastation. Some complaints of social workers taken from the LOFT website on Stigma and Mental health are as follows: “More hospital spaces are used up by patients with mental illness than patients with cancer and heart diseases combined. 7 million Canadians face with mental illness every year, which is 1 in 5 of us”- Sheila Rogers.

“Stigma, prejudice, discrimination are social constructs that cause patients to feel shame, guilty, unworthy.”- Dr A George Award. “Oh, you work in the mental health, so you work with the crazies”- Fern Lee quint

Some early studies conducted through literature reviews on the health of social workers has also referred to the project I selected. Some of the case studies have shown how workers experience high levels of stress and burnout but most remain committed to their work. (S, et al., 2006) A worker’s well-being is mostly overseen but only if a worker is happy or contented, they can engage better within the community that would result in more productive and creative work. (Taylor & Brown, 1988)

Another case study showed how success of a worker had varied depending on how long he had been engaging at work. ‘The longer staff worked, the less they liked working with patients, the less successful they felt with them, and the less humanistic were their attitudes toward mental illness” (Maslach, 1978) LOFT Community services consist of many complex facilities among which some of them may require remodeling of spaces like:

  1. Stations for social-workers
  2. Meeting spaces of varying complexities and sizes
  3. Social support gathering spaces
  4. Food facility options
  5. Library and reference spaces
  6. Sense of security at work by use of monitors & cameras
  7. Exterior parking
  8. Exterior lounging and landscaping

The social relevance of this project may help better mental-health for both social workers and clients. A healthy working environment can bring Improvement in mental health which also leads to improvement of physical health through relief of stress and anxiety. This change in facility can eventually encourage social workers to work better and inspire the community to participate in more social services. The users of this community space design should benefit with a mental wellbeing with everybody involved in it. Like youth, adults, senior, janitorial staff, social workers and other users of the space. My major client of the community Centre are the social workers that serve the others with great dedication. I have chosen the social workers are my clients because improvement in their working conditions can have a positive direct effect on their mental health which is the key source and requirement to produce better service for the other clients of the center.

My World view of a work space design is a space that can determine the effectiveness of the activities and functions that occur in that area. A well-designed place can have a positive impact on the workers wellbeing and even impact the quality of the meetings with clients. Some factors that can affect the environment of a working space are placement of the desk as if the user faces a blank wall or window, size of the space, windows, lighting, cluttered or non-cluttered space, traffic flow within the space, kinds of plants if present in the space, furniture and finishes types, flooring materials and wall paints and the overall energy that flows within the work space. I believe a social workers’ office space should be designed in a way that creates security for the worker, neutralizes feelings of stress, improves concentrations, and promotes feelings of joy and comfort for both worker and client so they can have more friendly conversations.

“Little attention has been given to the spaces in which welfare services for children and families are located. Yet the environment and location of social work services are relevant both for staff and for those who receive services, shaping service perceptions and perceptions of self as well as impacting on communication and relationships between practitioners and children and families. Those leading and managing children’s services should explore ways of involving local communities in planning social work offices and turn attention to making these offices accessible, welcoming, places.” (Stanley, et al., 2015) The case study is done through research by gathering data from children, young people in out-of-home care, birth parents and SWP staff which concludes the paper with recommendations on improving the social office environment as a whole.

Their goals are also to “create communities,” “facilitate collaboration” and “create serendipitous encounters.” Through design, architects and business leaders are essentially being asked to re-wire the social, if not organizational culture, as much as to adhere to strict building codes.” (Wagner & Watch, 2017)

“They are intellectually curious, delving into complex innovation processes to better understand their physical implications. They combine both intuitive and analytical insight to solve problems while, at the same time, promoting ideas from workers and researchers that use the space day-to-day.” (Wagner & Watch, 2017) In this research, Julie Wagner and Dan Watch talks about how spaces creating confusion over their differences: “what services they provide, how and when they contribute to the process of innovation, and whom they help.” They describe the key findings and insights of a space and how the design of space matters. Moreover, the rise of innovations spaces, what they are and trends influencing the design of innovative workspaces are also described in their research which can be referred to for this thesis.

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Design And Environmental Effects On Mental Health In Community Centers. (2019, August 27). GradesFixer. Retrieved January 22, 2022, from
“Design And Environmental Effects On Mental Health In Community Centers.” GradesFixer, 27 Aug. 2019,
Design And Environmental Effects On Mental Health In Community Centers. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 22 Jan. 2022].
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