MENTAL HEALTH – Under the high ceiling of the former Montpellier pharmacy school, converted into a contemporary art center, André, Kevin and Ambre work the clay under the watchful eye of an artist. Referred by their psychiatrist, they participate in a pilot program of “art on prescription”.
Of very different ages and life courses, but with episodes of depression or anxiety in common, these three patients, followed by the psychiatric emergency and post-emergency department (Dupup) of the Montpellier University Hospital, were not particularly interested in art so far. But they respected this particular treatment to the letter, for the space of a few weeks.
In 2022, this project involved three groups of around ten patients. On the program: one-month artistic tours, combining visits to exhibitions and practical workshops. At each session, they were accompanied by a fine arts student and an intern in psychiatry, notably in charge of the scientific evaluation of the project.
Completely free for participants, “prescription art” is financed by the Mo.Co (Montpellier Center for Contemporary Art), the Regional Health Agency, the Regional Department of Cultural Affairs (Drac), as well as the city and metropolitan area of Montpellier, which has within its walls the oldest faculty of medicine in the world still in operation.
Break the isolation
“It’s very liberating”confides with a smile Ambre Castells, a 17-year-old high school student, by pouring paraffin into a clay mold. “When I’m here, it’s like everything that could potentially hurt me is gone. »
Kevin Gineste, 23, saw his “Natural Anxiety Ease”. ” [Je] I can go see psychologists, but the best thing is to do things with my hands, to externalize what I have in me”he said, delighted to have met “people with the same type of problems”.
At their side, wearing a white apron to avoid getting dirty, André Broussous, 60, is delighted to have this time “improved” her “way of using (one’s) hands”after having been introduced last year to body expression, under the aegis of the dancer Anne Lopez.
“Choreography gave me the art of fitting into a group, which was not easy at first, as well as greater confidence in my way of expressing myself, of moving”he recalls.
“Mental health disorders, such as depression, lead to social isolation and a lack of self-esteem, which being in a group helps to break”emphasizes Professor Philippe Courtet, from the Montpellier University Hospital.
“Getting patients out of the hospital”
For the Mo.Co, the city’s center for contemporary art, and the psychiatry department of the university hospital, the “belief” is shared: there is a “urgent need to raise public awareness of the benefits of artistic engagement for mental health”insists Philippe Courtet.
Unprecedented in France, this project, inspired by experiments carried out in Belgium, Canada or the United Kingdom, has an ambition, “get patients out of the hospital by prescribing art”adds the professor.
“Here, it’s not artists who go to patients, but patients who go to museums, meet artists and enter their universe”insists Élodie Michel, another expert in psychiatry at the CHU. “We hope that this program (can) be extended to all and be reimbursed by social security”pleads the director of the Mo.Co, Numa Hambursin, stressing that in Canada, treating physicians can already prescribe up to 50 museum visits per year to their patients.
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