Psychiatrists can prescribe free visits to the museum
Brussels has launched a six-month pilot programme whereby therapists can prescribe museum visits to patients suffering from depression, anxiety and other mental health issues.
The programme, in cooperation with Brugmann University Hospital’s psychiatry department, enables patients to visit cultural sites for free, with the cost of tickets picked up by the City of Brussels.
The idea originated in Quebec, where since 2018 doctors have been able to write a prescription allowing patients to visit the Museum of Fine Arts.
“Now’s the time to do this,” said Brussels culture alderwoman Delphine Houba, who initiated the project. “Coronavirus reminded us that culture is essential for mental health.”
The innovative scheme allows prescriptions to specify which museum a patient can visit and how many other people - such as up to three family members, for example - can accompany them.
The prescriptions must be signed by a doctor and the museum ticket will follow all regulations regarding data privacy.
For the Brugmann hospital, the initiative reinforces its existing art therapy department. “We’re confronted with our mortality and art and culture gives sense to death,” said psychiatrist Dr Vincent Lustygier.
“During the pandemic, people were trapped indoors and death became something that was waiting outside your door. Today, the world is still a frightening place for many.”
Currently, the city-centre institutions involved in the scheme are the Brussels City Museum in the Grand Place, the nearby MannekenPis Wardrobe museum, the Fashion and Lace Museum, the Sewer museum and the Centrale contemporary art centre.
But Houba is confident that the pilot project will prove successful and be expanded. She says that there’s already a lot of interest from potential partners and the determining factor for its enlargement will not be the number of participants, but positive feedback from the hospital and museums.