Museums on prescription: Brussels exams cultural visits to deal with anxiousness | Belgium

A tour of historic sewers? An encounter with a masterpiece of Sixteenth-century lace-making? These are two of the therapies on supply to individuals in Brussels affected by despair, stress or anxiousness.

From this month, psychiatrists in one of many metropolis’s largest hospitals have been capable of supply sufferers “museum prescriptions”, a free go to with a number of mates or relations to find a number of of Brussels’ cultural establishments.

Delphine Houba, a Brussels deputy mayor in control of tradition, believes the challenge is the primary of its sort in Europe. The primary goal is to strengthen entry to tradition after the pressured days of lockdown, she advised the Observer. “I need everyone again in our cultural establishments… however we all know that, even earlier than Covid, for some individuals it [was] not simple to open the door of a museum, they don’t really feel comfy, they don’t assume that it’s for them. And I actually need to present that cultural venues are for everyone.”

The second aim, she stated, is to present docs “a brand new device within the therapeutic course of”. The younger socialist politician was impressed by an analogous challenge in Canada, the place docs have been issuing prescriptions to the Montreal Museum of Advantageous Arts since 2018.

In Brussels, the pilot challenge is working for six months, involving 5 museums which can be instantly beneath the management of metropolis authorities. These embody town’s historical past museum, a centre for up to date artwork, and the style and lace museum.

Sufferers can also uncover the sewer museum, which permits them to walk 10 metres underground alongside the banks of the Senne, the hidden river of Brussels, largely paved over within the nineteenth century. Or they might discover the gathering of outfits belonging to the Manneken Pis, the statue of a peeing boy that has change into an emblem of Belgium’s self-deprecating humour

The cherubic bronze determine has almost 1,100 costumes, together with one from King Louis XV of France from 1747 to make amends for his troopers’ theft of the statue, and a present from the Rolling Stones, adorned with the band’s tongue emblem, that made its first look in July.

“Something may have therapeutic worth if it helps individuals get feeling and get in contact with themselves,” stated Dr Johan Newell, a psychiatrist at Brugmann College Hospital, which is collaborating within the pilot scheme.

The Museum of the City of Brussels.
The Museum of the Metropolis of Brussels. {Photograph}: Arterra Image Library/Alamy

He expects museum prescriptions would swimsuit individuals affected by despair, anxiousness, autism spectrum issues, psychosis and bipolar dysfunction. “I feel nearly anybody may gain advantage from it,” he stated. “It might most likely be extra tailored for people who find themselves already a little bit bit additional on within the restoration course of”, quite than those that are severely unwell, he stated.

Museum prescriptions, Newell careworn, have been a voluntary addition to remedy, psychotherapy, particular person or group remedy, in addition to train, wholesome consuming and different types of leisure.

“It’s only one further device that would assist individuals get out of the home: to resocialise, reconnect with society.”

A overview by the World Well being Group in 2019 concluded that arts may assist individuals experiencing psychological sicknesses and urged higher collaboration between tradition and public well being professionals.

If the pilot is profitable, the scheme could possibly be opened to incorporate different museums, cinemas, hospitals and teams of sufferers. Folks recovering from mind accidents, in addition to older individuals and kids, may additionally profit, urged Newell.

Houba, who chaired the board of Brugmann hospital earlier than her election in 2019, stated the one-page prescription was designed to be so simple as potential. Folks “received’t have a information or one thing particular as a result of we don’t need them to be stigmatised or to really feel completely different.”

Sufferers would focus on their go to earlier than and after with their physician, who would test “how the expertise was for them, what they preferred, what they didn’t like,” Newell stated. In addition to an opportunity to reconnect with society, he additionally sees a possibility for quiet reflection away from the bustle of life. “Our society is so, so busy, so filled with stress and stimuli,” he stated. A museum prescription provides individuals an “alternative to cool down for a second”.


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