Under the high ceiling of a former pharmacy school in Montpellier, turned into a center for contemporary art, André, Kevin and Ambre work with clay under the watchful eye of the artist. With a referral from their psychiatrist, they are participating in the Art by Prescription pilot program.
Completely different in age and life paths, but with common episodes of depression or anxiety, these three patients, followed by the psychiatric emergency and post-acute care (Dupup) department of the University Hospital of Montpellier, have so far not been particularly interested in art.
But they nevertheless strictly observed this treatment for several weeks.
Mo.Co, the city’s contemporary arts center, and the university hospital’s psychiatric department share a “belief” that there is “an urgent need to raise public awareness of the mental health benefits of creative activity,” Professor Phillip insists. Courtet from the Montpellier University Hospital.
The project, unprecedented in France, inspired by experiments done in Belgium, Canada or the United Kingdom, aims to “get patients out of the hospital by prescribing art,” adds the professor.
“It’s liberating, it’s extremely liberating,” Ambre Castells, a 17-year-old high school student, admits with a smile as she pours paraffin into a clay mold: “When I’m here, it’s like everything that could make me potentially bad is a start.”
Kevin Gineste, 23, noted that his “natural anxiety has subsided.” “You can go to psychologists, but it’s best to do something with your own hands, bring to life what is in me,” he says, happy to meet “people with the same problems” and now ready to “go to the museum more often.
– Insulation failure –
“This is a workshop of soft, pliable materials that deform and change from solid to liquid upon contact with the hand. It allows you to soak in the experience,” explains visual artist Suzy Lelièvre as she observes this.
Next to them, wearing a white apron to keep from getting dirty, 60-year-old André Broussoux is delighted that this time he has “improved” his “way of using (his) hands” after being initiated into bodily expression for a year. under the auspices of dancer Ann Lopez.
“The choreography gave me the art of fitting into the group, which was not easy at first, as well as a lot of confidence in how I express myself, in how I move,” he recalls.
“Mental disorders such as depression lead to social isolation and low self-esteem, which being in a group helps to break,” emphasizes Philippe Courte, himself passionate about contemporary art.
“Here, artists don’t go to patients, but patients go to the museum, meet the artists and get into their universe,” insists Elodie Michel, another psychiatric expert from CHU.
In 2022, three groups of approximately ten patients participated in this program. The program includes: monthly art trips, combining visits to exhibitions and creative workshops.
They were accompanied to each session by a fine arts student and a psychiatric trainee, in particular responsible for the scientific evaluation of the project.
Completely free for participants, the “art by prescription” is funded by Mo.Co, the Regional Health Agency, the Regional Directorate for Cultural Affairs (Drac), and the city and agglomeration of Montpellier, which still houses the world’s oldest medical faculty.
“We hope that this program (can be) extended to everyone and will be offset by social security,” pleads Mo.Co director Numa Hambursin, emphasizing that in Canada, primary care physicians can already prescribe up to 50 museum visits per year to their primary care physicians. the patients.