A tour of historic sewers? An encounter with a masterpiece of Sixteenth-century lace-making? These are two of the therapies on supply to folks in Brussels suffering from depression, stress or anxiety.
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 couple of associates or relations to find a number of of Brussels’ cultural establishments.
Delphine Houba, a Brussels deputy mayor in control of tradition, believes the mission is the primary of its variety in Europe. The primary goal is to bolster entry to tradition after the pressured days of lockdown, she advised the Observer. “I would like everyone again in our cultural establishments… however we all know that, even earlier than Covid, for some folks it [was] not straightforward to open the door of a museum, they don’t really feel comfortable, they don’t assume that it’s for them. And I actually wish to present that cultural venues are for everyone.”
The second objective, she mentioned, is to offer medical doctors “a brand new device within the therapeutic course of”. The younger socialist politician was impressed by the same mission in Canada, the place medical doctors have been issuing prescriptions to the Montreal Museum of Advantageous Arts since 2018.
In Brussels, the pilot mission is operating for six months, involving 5 museums which might be straight underneath 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 may discover the gathering of outfits belonging to the Manneken Pis, the statue of a peeing boy that has turn out to be a logo 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 brand, that made its first look in July.
“Something may have therapeutic worth if it helps folks get a great feeling and get in contact with themselves,” mentioned Dr Johan Newell, a psychiatrist at Brugmann College Hospital, which is participating within the pilot scheme.
He expects museum prescriptions would go well with folks affected by melancholy, anxiousness, autism spectrum issues, psychosis and bipolar dysfunction. “I believe virtually anybody may gain advantage from it,” he mentioned. “It might in all probability be extra tailored for people who find themselves already slightly bit additional on within the restoration course of”, quite than those that are severely unwell, he mentioned.
Museum prescriptions, Newell confused, had been a voluntary addition to medication, psychotherapy, individual or group therapy, in addition to train, wholesome consuming and different types of rest.
“It’s only one further device that might assist folks get out of the home: to resocialise, reconnect with society.”
A review by the World Well being Group in 2019 concluded that arts may assist folks experiencing psychological sicknesses and urged higher collaboration between tradition and public well being professionals.
If the pilot is profitable, the scheme may very well be opened to incorporate different museums, cinemas, hospitals and teams of affected person. Individuals recovering from mind accidents, in addition to older folks and kids, may additionally profit, prompt Newell.
Houba, who chaired the board of Brugmann hospital earlier than her election in 2019, mentioned the one-page prescription was designed to be so simple as doable. Individuals “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 verify “how the expertise was for them, what they preferred, what they didn’t like,” Newell mentioned. 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 mentioned. A museum prescription offers folks an “alternative to calm down for a second”.