Museums in Brussels, Belgium, now serve a new purpose: helping people who suffer from anxiety and depression, with doctors prescribing cultural visits as one of the tools in the healing process.
“Now’s the time to do this,” states Delphine Houba, a Brussels deputy mayor who is spearheading the initiative. “The coronavirus reminded us that culture is essential for mental health.”
Free visits to five cultural institutions managed by the city can now be prescribed by doctors at the Brugmann Hospital, including the Sewer Museum (to visit ancient underground pathways), the Fashion and Lace Museum (to admire textiles), and the CENTRALE for contemporary art. The prescription will be discreet, so people don’t feel “stigmatized or […] different.” Patients will check with their doctors before and after the cultural visit. Should the six-month pilot be successful, the program could include federally run museums. A similar initiative has been launched in 2018 in Montreal, Canada since conclusive research showed the importance of exposure to art and creative stimulation for patients. Indeed, a report from the World Health Organization – in which more than 3,000 studies were analyzed – “identified a major role for the arts in the prevention of ill health, promotion of health and management and treatment of illness” throughout a person’s life.