Brussels doctors to prescribe museum visits for stress

·2-min read

Bed rest and medication are usually what the doctor orders when patients show symptoms of stress and burnout. Others turn to chocolate or alcohol to ease the pain.

But now, one Brussels city councilor has a new idea – free museum visits for patients. Working hand in hand with the psychiatric unit at the local Brugmann hospital, Delphine Houba hopes to improve the mental health of patients suffering from stress and anxiety, as well as revitalise the museum sector. All of which have taken a toll since the pandemic began.

"It is true, we are used to going to the doctor and getting medicine. Here the idea is to consider that art is part of the process of healing….Like what Le Clézio said — the Nobel prize winner for literature — one day we might realise there is no art, but just medicine," Houba told Euronews.

For the next three months, five public museums in the Belgian capital covering fashion to art will take part in the pilot project. If it is successful, Houba hopes more will participate.

The art historian Isabel Vermote from Belgium’s famous Royal Museum of Fine Arts welcomes the idea, but with caution.

Since 2017, the museum has been working with the health care sector to bring the ill and vulnerable to the museum. Vermote will soon start working on a project about art and dementia.

"Art is not a medicine or medication. It's much more complex than that. And going to a museum to look at some paintings and think that afterwards you feel better. No, I don't believe in that," the art historian told Euronews.

"But I believe that art can be good for your well-being. And if you create the right context, if you create an excellent setting, which means you need to feel welcome in a museum," she added.

Vermote also stressed how important it is to create a "safe space" for patients so they feel welcome and included in the museum experience.

The success of the project remains to be seen, but the idea is catchy and a reminder to us all to get out and about again after months of lockdowns around Europe.

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