The Safe Space at TPCH
Supporting people to recover from crisis
The Prince Charles Hospital (TPCH) is one of the first hospitals in Queensland to pilot a crisis support space – a “safe space” – aimed at improving our response to people experiencing mental health crises.
Opened in January 2021, the new ‘Safe Space’ provides a dedicated, non-clinical, home-like area for people who are currently experiencing, or are at risk of developing, a mental health crisis, to allow timely intervention and compassionate care.
TPCH’s Emergency Department (ED) currently sees many individuals who present in a mentally vulnerable state, seeking care and support. Being able to assist these individuals in an alternative location, with both peer and clinical support, means they can receive help earlier and subsequently prevent the risk of their situation becoming critical.
The Safe Space is in close proximity to ED, next to the Common Good Café. It is only accessible via swipe card, so people need to be accompanied by a staff member.
The service operates outside of normal business hours from 2:00pm – 8.00pm, Monday to Thursday and 5:00pm – 8:00pm Friday.
How is the Safe Space staffed?
The Safe Space is staffed with two peer workers and one senior mental health clinician.
Peer workers are trained support workers who can use their own lived experience of mental health challenges and recovery to support people in their own recovery journey. Working alongside the mental health clinician, peer workers are central to the Safe Space model for their ability to connect with people, develop rapport, and create a safe environment for consumers to share what they are experiencing.
Using their unique lenses of lived and professional experience, the team collaborate with consumers and carers to find their own path to wellbeing.
Suicide is the leading cause of death in Australia for people aged 15-44 years old. Nationally, in 2018, Queensland represented 26% of all deaths by suicide, the second largest number after New South Wales. Every suicide death is tragic, with far-reaching and long-lasting impacts on families, friends and communities. Suicide prevention is a priority, nationally and for Queensland. Metro North Mental Health’s Planning for Wellbeing was developed with Brisbane North PHN, consumers and community partners, to work collectively to create a better support system and targeted services to improve mental health and wellbeing. Through it, Metro North Health commits to increased investment in alternative crisis support models such as the Safe Space at TPCH. Our regional plan also contributes to the following statewide objectives:
The Shifting Minds: Queensland Mental Health Alcohol and Other Drugs Strategic Plan 2018-2023 (Shifting Minds) aims to deliver a mental health, alcohol and other drugs, and suicide prevention system that is truly comprehensive, integrated and recovery orientated. Shifting Minds has three focus areas: better lives for those with a lived experience, investing early to save, and whole-of-system improvement through shared leadership and accountability.
Every life: The Queensland Suicide Prevention Plan 2019-2029 (Every Life), was released on World Suicide Prevention Day in 2019 by the Queensland Mental Health Commission. Every Life contains an action plan that focusses on creating and supporting a healthy and inclusive Queensland where everyone can access the support they need, achieve positive mental health and wellbeing and live their lives with meaning and purpose.
With an increase in people experiencing distress due to COVID-19, our crisis response system needs to be integrated, rapid and effective.
When people present to ED in distress it may be because of underlying mental health conditions or because of traumatic experiences. They may be experiencing domestic and family violence, stress, grief or other personally distressing and adverse life situations.
People in these situations are more likely to wait longer, precisely at a time when they are seeking help and are at their most vulnerable. When people do present to medical services and leave without appropriate, timely and continuous support, that can increase the risk of greater acuity, recurrence of crises, escalation of distress, or discharge without treatment and the linkages to support in the community that can help.
Working collaboratively between ED and mental health services within the hospital, we want to improve our immediate response to people in crisis. We will work together with community partners to improve post-crisis support.
In addition, we aim to reduce re-presentations, alleviate pressure on ED, reduce acute admissions and ultimately prevent crises and suicide.
The Safe Space can be accessed through a referral process from the Emergency
Department through to the Mental Health Acute Care Team. Once a person has been determined as eligible for Safe Space, the Safe Space clinician will discuss this as an option for the person, so that an informed decision can be made. The clinician will then walk with the person from ED to Safe Space. The Safe Space is a family-inclusive service and can support consumers as well as their families, support people or carers.
People can also contact MH CALL to discuss the possibility of accessing Safe Space.
The Safe Space was co-designed with consumers, carers, and clinicians through the Safe Space project committee. The theme of nature – as healing and grounding – is referenced throughout the space in the colour choices and patterns. The space integrates Metro North’s Reconciliation artwork as well as prints designed by a local artist, Evie Ramirez, to reflect the calming look and feel. As part of the overall design, discrete zones were created and furniture deliberately selected to allow privacy, space, and social distancing, with access to a range of sensory tools to meet individual preferences.
Safe Space team
Location: The Prince Charles Hospital
Phone: Via MH CALL – 1300 MHCALL (1300 64 2255)
Mon to Thurs 2:00pm - 8:00pm
Friday 5:00pm - 8:00pm