Embracing Movement:
A Design Team’s Reflection on Mental Health Awareness Week

By Paul Yeomans and Lianne Knotts, Medical Architecture.

Medical Architecture’s recently completed Sycamore  at Northgate Park Hospitalfor Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust is shortlisted for awards at Design in Mental Health’s conference 2024. Ahead of Mental Health Awareness week, with its theme of movement in mind, the Design in Mental Health Network comms team caught up with Medical Architecture to find out more.

As designers of Sycamore, our mission is to create environments that foster healing and well-being for individuals seeking mental health support. With Mental Health Awareness Week approaching, we’re reminded of the profound impact that movement can have on mental well-being. This year’s theme, “Movement,” resonates deeply with our design philosophy, as we believe in the power of physical activity to enhance mental health.

Sycamore, nestled within the serene surroundings of Northgate Park Hospital, stands as a testament to our commitment to holistic mental health care. Our design integrates principles of biophilic design and therapeutic landscapes, seamlessly merging indoor and outdoor spaces to promote movement and connection with nature.

The theme of movement aligns perfectly with the objectives of Mental Health Awareness Week, which aims to raise awareness about mental health and inspire action to promote mental well-being. Research has shown that regular physical activity has numerous benefits for mental health, including reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression, improved mood, and increased self-esteem.

At Sycamore, we’ve implemented various elements to encourage movement and physical activity and reduce boredom among residents. Our design includes dedicated spaces for exercise and recreation, such as landscaped gardens, walking paths, a sport’s barn and fitness areas. These spaces are intentionally designed to be inclusive and accessible to individuals of all abilities, ensuring that everyone can participate in movement-based activities.

Furthermore, our collaboration with healthcare professionals and experts in mental health has led to the development of tailored programs that incorporate physical activity into the therapeutic process. Programs like “A Weight Off Your Mind,” offered by [Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust] (https://www.cntw.nhs.uk/services/a-weight-off-your-mind/physical-activity/inpatient-physical-activity/ ), highlight the importance of integrating physical activity into mental health care. By combining evidence-based interventions with the healing power of movement, we’re creating a supportive environment where individuals can embark on their journey towards recovery.

For people managing their mental health in a secure setting, the ability to move, to be mindful, to overcome boredom, is at a premium. As designers, we’re committed to promoting mental well-being through thoughtful and purposeful design. Our work extends beyond aesthetics; it’s about creating spaces that nurture the mind, body, and spirit. As we celebrate [Mental Health Awareness Week](https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/our-work/public-engagement/mental-health-awareness-week), we invite everyone to join us in embracing movement as a powerful tool for enhancing mental health.

John Carson, the Trust’s Head of Capital Developments summed up the achievement and importance of the importance it can have – “It is inspiring to see the unit in use and heartening to hear the early feedback from clinicians about the quality of the accommodation. This is a flagship development, and it has set a new standard, not just for our future projects but for the whole mental health sector.” The call for equality of access to something as fundamental as physical exercise is something we can all get behind.

Together, let’s #MoveForMentalHealth.


  1. [Sycamore at Northgate Park Hospital – Medical Architecture](https://medicalarchitecture.com/project/sycamore-at-northgate-park-hospital-2/)
  2. [Mental Health Awareness Week – Mental Health Foundation](https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/our-work/public-engagement/mental-health-awareness-week)
  3. [How to Look After Your Mental Health Using Exercise – Mental Health Foundation](https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/explore-mental-health/publications/how-look-after-your-mental-health-using-exercise)
  4. [A Weight Off Your Mind: Physical Activity – Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust](https://www.cntw.nhs.uk/services/a-weight-off-your-mind/physical-activity/inpatient-physical-activity/)