Some years back, I took a course in architecture, taught by a supremely talented man whose abilities defy description using words like “artist” or “architect.” Because for all his dexterity and precision in rendering images using chalk, charcoal, ink and, more recently, all manner of computer-aided design tools, his ability to see and capture the structure and detail of nearly anything was unsurpassed.
Show him a human form, a leafy plant, a cathedral, or a post office building. Challenge him to render it in different ways-interior, exterior, depth, weight, motion, cutaway-and he could capture it. In my own small way, I learned from him not just how to see what's apparent, but how to perceive, and share, a larger and clearer perspective. And, to appreciate the difficulty of that task.
The challenges of academic assignments pale in comparison with those faced by the creators of this year's Behavioral Healthcare Design Showcase entries (starting on p. 29), since these entries had not only to be perceived, rendered, planned and budgeted, but approved and built in a difficult economy.
Each of these designs, as well as the talented and dedicated organizations that they represent, speaks to our expanding appreciation of the challenges and needs of those served by behavioral health providers. Each confronts and overcomes critical constraints-care requirements, safety concerns, conventions of local architecture, staffing and workforce requirements, even budget limitations-to offer a solution that provides essential benefits to owners, employees, and occupants alike.
Seeing the whole of such designs, especially with the help of observations and descriptions from a skilled and perceptive design jury, is a pleasure that the entire Behavioral Healthcare team is pleased to have and share with you.
Every bit as interesting and elegant as the perceptions that drive great design solutions are those that open and explain the workings of the mind. This is why, as I researched the issues of suicide and suicide prevention for this month's story (p. 45), I was taken by the simplicity and understandability of the comparatively new “interpersonal theory of suicide” offered by Thomas Joiner, PhD, a professor of psychology at Florida State University.
After spending considerable time with it, I found that this theory comfortably explains a wide range of suicidal thinking and behavior, predicts suicide risk, and helps debunk a host of old suicide myths. His discussion also illuminates how small distortions in the thoughts or perceptions of everyday people can build on very human instincts to evolve into suicidal ideations. Importantly, he does this without invoking myth or mystery and without losing sight of the humanity of the individual involved.
Joiner's theory is just one bright light among many new research, training, and practice initiatives nationwide that open the door to a new, more enlightened, and far more hopeful understanding of suicidal behavior. The groundwork is now in place to see suicide as a public health problem that, like others, will respond to prevention efforts.
Of course, structure must follow groundwork and thankfully, construction is underway. From the strategic, nationwide effort being driven by the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, to the statewide Tennessee Lives Count effort, to the regional efforts being undertaken by organizations like Magellan of Arizona, more and more Americans, professionals and non-professionals alike, are gaining the skills needed to help troubled people find help and with it, a brighter and far longer future.
Dennis G. Grantham, Editor-in-Chief
Want to read more Editorials?
- A view from the Summit
- Mental Health First Aid: A Step in the Right Direction
- Can we be as good as Christina imagined?
Prior editions also can be found in our Article Archives.