In Brussels, people with anxiety, depression being given ‘museum prescriptions’


In capital Brussels city, psychiatrists are taking a novel approach to treat people suffering from depression, stress or anxiety.

For the past five months, one of the city’s largest hospitals has been offering “museum prescriptions” as a method to cure depression. 

This cure entails a free visit with a few friends or family to discover one or more of Brussels’ cultural institutions, reports the Guardian.

Brussels deputy mayor in charge of culture, Delphine Houba, claims that the project is the first of its kind in Europe. 

Speaking to the examiner, she said that the first aim of this pilot project is to reinforce access to culture after the pressured days of lockdown. 

“I want everybody back in our cultural institutions… but we know that, even before Covid, for some people it [was] not easy to open the door of a museum, they don’t feel at ease, they don’t think that it’s for them. And I really want to show that cultural venues are for everybody.”

While the second objective is to provide doctors “a new tool in the healing process”, she said.

When asked how she first got the idea of such a unique approach to tackle depression, the young socialist politician cited a similar project in Canada, where doctors have been issuing prescriptions to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts since 2018.

This pilot project involves touring five museums that are directly under the control of city authorities. These include the city’s history museum, a centre for contemporary art, and the fashion and lace museum.

“Anything could have therapeutic value if it helps people get a good feeling and get in touch with themselves,” said Dr Johan Newell, a psychiatrist at Brugmann University Hospital, which is taking part in the pilot scheme.

He believes that the concept of museum prescriptions would find takers from people suffering undergoing depression, anxiety, autism spectrum disorders, psychosis and bipolar disorder. 

“I think almost anyone could benefit from it. It would probably be more adapted for people who are already a little bit further on in the recovery process”, he said.


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