Medical museums, a Belgian project

Hospitals in Belgium's capital Brussels have decided to tackle the issue of mental health through a prescribed treatment of culture.

Doctors can now prescribe a visit to a Brussels city museum as a way to help patients on their path to recovery from anxiety, bipolar disorders or depression.


The initiative started in September and is a pilot program that will last six months that grants patients the possibility to go to five museums partnering the project with up to three people to accompany them.


These five museums are: the Museum of the city of Brussels, the Fashion and Lace Museum, the Sewer Museum, the Garde Robe Manneken-Pis, and the Centrale for Contemporary Art. If this choice seems a tad random it is because the treatment being covered by the hospital and not by Belgium's social security, these visits can only be done in a city owned institution. The diversity and range of art available could however prove interesting and entertaining.


"The arts help all human beings forget we are mortal beings,” said Vincent Lustygier, who works as a psychiatrist at the Brugmann University Hospital to Politico, “During the pandemic, death became something that was waiting outside your door. We saw to what extent mental illness became prevalent afterwards.”


Culture, just like exercise, has long been a catalyst for mental health improvement as it has proved to raise the serotonin levels in people exposed to it. A mild natural antidepressant of sorts.


The mental health crisis the COVID lockdowns have triggered has proved difficult to tackle, but initiatives like this, by inviting patients to go outside and stimulate their mind could prove a very effective tool for people to recover a normal life. 


Of course this is not meant to be the only form of treatment given, but merely another non pharmaceutical tool for doctors to use.