As of September 12th, psychiatrists in Brussels are able to prescribe museum tours to people suffering from mental health issues. The city of Brussels has developed a pilot project of “museum prescriptions” in collaboration with the Brugmann Hospital. During a six-month test phase, patients of the Paul Sivadon psychiatric day hospital, attached to the Brugmann hospital, will be able to obtain a museum prescription if the doctor considers that a cultural visit can have a beneficial effect on their mental health.
“The coronavirus reminded us that culture is essential for mental health,” Delphine Houba, Brussels’ alderwoman for culture, said to Politico in an interview. Tickets for the museums participating in the project (the Brussels City Museum, the Sewer Museum, the Fashion & Lace Museum and the CENTRALE for contemporary art exhibition center) will be paid for by the city of Brussels.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, we know how important mental well-being is.Delphine Houba, Brussels’ alderwoman for culture
In concrete terms, the prescription will indicate which museum the patient wishes to visit and how many people, family or other, will accompany him. The City of Brussels will pay for the entrance tickets for the patient and up to three accompanying persons.
“Even more so since the outbreak of the coronavirus, we know how important mental well-being is. The project has a double objective: to promote access to culture for a vulnerable public and to have an additional tool in the context of therapeutic monitoring,” said Houba.
It should be noted that patients with the prescription will not be accompanied by a health professional. “There is nothing deliberately planned to not stigmatize patients. The public comes to visit at its own pace, depending on what interests it,” said Denis Laurent, the director of the city’s museums, to Belgian news outlet RTBF.
In Quebec, such museum prescriptions have existed since 2018. 2,000 doctors there have been given the right to prescribe 50 “museum prescriptions” a year for patients to visit the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts for free. The institution has become a laboratory to measure the effects of art on mental health. These effects would be beneficial, especially for the health of the elderly; a study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry showed that the practice, even passive, of cultural activities reduced the risk of depression.
In addition to the medical aspect, the project also has a social aspect. “Psychiatric patients are often in great financial distress, so to have a museum prescription, to be able to go to the museum for free, to be able to go with the family, I think it’s a great way to open up,” said Dr. Vincent Lustygier, psychiatrist and head of the psychiatric day hospital.
An evaluation of the project is planned in 6 months. The possibility of an extension remains on the radar.