Health redefined: CAMH transforms mental health care, starting with its bricks and mortar

Photo credit: CAMH

By: Hilary Caton, Communications Coordinator for the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)

This November, CAMH reached an incredible milestone that will help redefine mental health as Canadians know it, with the official opening of the McCain Complex Care & Recovery Building and the Crisis & Critical Care Building.

These two state-of-the-art buildings located in the vibrant West Queen West community in Toronto include 235 patient beds between them and are designed to provide the best possible mental health care experience in an environment that is spacious, respectful and dignified.

The buildings also co-locate CAMH's educational programming for learners and clinical services, creating opportunities for knowledge exchange between CAMH patients, learners and its community.  

A Symbol for Recovery

While CAMH continues to work to end the prejudice and discrimination towards people with mental illness, it's made great strides—the redevelopment vision is a symbol of this progress.

"In this phase of our redevelopment, we reintroduce ourselves to Queen Street. The iconic corner of Queen and Ossington invites our community to continue our work together to confront the prejudice and discrimination experienced by people who live with mental illness," says Catherine Zahn, CEO and President of CAMH.

With these two buildings CAMH is redefining healthcare, while also showing the community that mental health is health and recovery is possible for all patients who step through our doors.

Crisis & Critical Care Building

The Crisis & Critical Care Building will house the Gerald Sheff and Shanitha Kachan Emergency Department - the only 24/7 Emergency Department in the province devoted to mental health care.

The new space is double the size of the current Emergency Department and features three assessment rooms, more treatment rooms, space for families who are supporting loved ones, private waiting areas and entrances for emergency transport services. With its increased capacity enabling improved intake, assessment and triage procedures, the space will offer people in crisis safe, dignified and private spaces to receive care.

CAMH Emergency Department Psychiatrist Dr. Juveria Zaheer says these environmental changes will have a positive impact on how people approach and receive emergency mental health care.

"When someone walks into a beautiful, dignified, meaningful space it can make such a difference in how care is delivered and experienced," says Dr. Zaheer. 

The McCain Complex Care & Recovery Centre

The McCain Complex Care & Recovery Centre will house the Tour de Bleu Therapeutic Neighbourhood – a supportive shared space where patients will learn skills they need to transition into the community and live a full life beyond CAMH.

Patients themselves were involved in the early planning and design of the Neighbourhood and have also helped shape the services that are offered, such as a new gleaming teaching kitchen, a state-of-the-art computer training room, laundry facilities and educational settings for patients and their families to learn about mental illness and recovery.

"The space you are in and how you feel about that space matters," says CAMH Peer Support Worker and former CAMH patient Sara Traore, who consulted on the creation of the therapeutic indoor and outdoor spaces.

"If you have mental illness you are quite sensitive and if you are an inpatient you have probably had a lot of trauma past and present in your life.  Your environment is everything.  If that's the space where you are going to be coming to terms with your illness and receiving care, a surrounding that you feel at peace in and welcomed in is really key and will help prevent relapse."

Along with learning new skills, patients will also have access to spaces that support them on their road to recovery. This will include tranquil outdoor settings that feature gardening programs, exercise and music rooms, and media and art spaces. Here, patients can explore additional non-traditional forms of healing that will support them on their journeys toward mental wellness.  

Health Redefined

Access to green space and public art have also been integrated throughout the site for patients, families, visitors and the community to experience together.

This is the third step of the multi-phase redevelopment of CAMH's Queen Street site with a purposeful vision to replace a walled off institution with a therapeutic urban village.