On October 19, we submitted a proposal to the Government of the Republic of Lithuania and Vilnius City Municipality to integrate a museum visit prescription into the Lithuanian healthcare system. Research conducted by Vilnius University reveals that in January of 2021, there were 41% more reported cases of anxiety disorders compared to the same time in 2019. Therefore, we are aiming to look for innovative emotional health promotion programs and follow the best foreign practices.
Having repeatedly highlighted the positive impact of culture and art on human emotional well-being, we have consistently maintained our position. Based on the reports of the World Health Organization and the best practices of other countries, we propose a pilot project – to integrate a museum visit prescription into the Lithuanian healthcare system. Later, the scope of this method could be extended to the “social prescription” model.
The potential of art and culture in strengthening emotional health
According to MO Museum’s director Milda, the pandemic has helped people recognise that mental health is no less important than physical health. More and more people are starting to acknowledge that they may have emotional health problems.
“In response to the current mental health situation in our society, the conclusions and reports by the World Health Organization and the best foreign practices, we suggest using the crisis as an opportunity for change. We encourage to use the potential of art and culture in strengthening emotional health”, says Milda, the director of MO Museum.
Therefore, we invite the Ministries of Health, Culture, Education, Science and Sports for a discussion and open dialogue. Firstly, we propose a pilot project – a museum visit prescription, and in the long term – based on the success of the current Cultural Passport program, to expand the scope of the prescription and integrate a “social prescription” into the healthcare system.
The museum visit prescription would contribute to the strengthening of the emotional health of the Lithuanian people, prevention of mental disorders and help reduce the use of the services of the overcrowded healthcare system. It would respond to both the long-standing issues of emotional illiteracy in Lithuanian society and the realities of the pandemic and post-pandemic situation.
Insufficient attention to the prevention of mental illness
In the proposal, we note that a study in the UK affirmed that at least a third of GP visits are related to a person’s isolation, loneliness and demand a social rather than a medical solution.
Clearly, more attention needs to be paid to the prevention of mental disorders and the strengthening of emotional wellness. This is not yet a priority in Lithuania.
“The World Health Organization declares that 90 percent of people’s overall health is determined by social determinants: the physical and spiritual environment, relationships between people, and only 10 percent by the treatment of the body and its parts. Nevertheless, in the Lithuanian mental health system, most of the attention and funding goes to three traditional streams: medical treatment, psychiatric hospitals or psychiatric wards, and permanent care facilities. A lot is spent on treatment, because too little attention is given to strengthening emotional health and prevention of mental disorders”, says Lithuanian psychiatrist Dainius Pūras.
He also adds that the availability of psychological help is a global problem – solutions are sought everywhere, so it is evident that they need to be found in Lithuania as well.
The best foreign practices
When proposing a pilot project to improve emotional health – a museum visit prescription – we rely on proven and already existing foreign practices.
A similar initiative from 2018 was executed in the Canadian province of Quebec. Doctors involved in a project initiated by a medical organisation have the opportunity to prescribe a museum visit for their patients and their relatives.
More recently, a similar initiative has been announced by Belgium. Since September this year, patients undergoing treatment for stress at one of the largest hospitals in Brussels have been offered free access to five of the city’s public museums.
The UK is a leader in research and policy on the health effects of the arts and leisure and has a broad social prescription. In addition to visiting museums or other cultural institutions, their prescription includes other different areas of leisure.
The results of its application are incredibly positive. Patients are found to have improved mood, reduced anxiety and depressive symptoms, improved physical health, reduced visits to GPs, increased sociality, motivation, and more optimism for the future.