Replacing stigma with hope for Canada’s most vulnerable mental health patients

Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care, Penetanguishene, Ontario, Canada

Isolation. Fear. Uncertainty. Familiar feelings for people living with a mental illness, feelings that often feel inescapable. Because of the centuries-old stigma and misunderstanding surrounding mental illnesses, seeking treatment feels like another barrier to overcome.

The vision for Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care was always larger than the building itself. Waypoint is a maximum-security forensic hospital, serving Canada’s most complex and severe behavioral health patients. The hospital is designed to support a progressive and unique model of care where rehabilitation is distinctly chosen over correction and barriers are replaced with “open doors.”

Waypoint’s goal is twofold: Provide hope to its patients through compassionate care and chip away at the stigma surrounding behavioral health by embracing the concept of community.

Waypoint’s gymnasium and swimming facilities are accessible to both the public and patient population, working to keep the facility from being isolated from the community. The building’s movable security perimeter means that local youth groups can host a swim meet on Saturday morning, while the patients enjoy a game of basketball in the gymnasium just one room away. The patient treatment mall features a woodshop, kiln, horticultural center and kitchen while the outdoor recreation area includes a baseball diamond and hockey rink – home to the hospital’s annual patient ice hockey game, a tradition dating back more than a century.

Groundbreaking behavioral health research is also a cornerstone of this facility. Researchers are conducting brain scans of patient volunteers to study if aggression can be modeled and predicted. Another study is looking at interventions or strategies for decreasing violence in the ward to keep patients and staff safe.

Progressive concepts like this demanded precision and extraordinary attention to detail to satisfy code and safety requirements, from access to materials and finishes. Rather than hiding behind closed doors, Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care chooses to enlighten the world around it by providing hope to those most in need.