MWR wins recognition of the WHO’s ‘Museum Prescriptions’ Project for mental healing

MWR wins recognition of the WHO’s ‘Museum Prescriptions’ Project for mental healingA stereotype is being toppled: medical treatment is no longer just taking medicine and getting injections. The positive outcome of visiting museums for healing-via-art has surpassed people’s imagination, and its popularity has begun to take root in Taiwan. Ling Jiou Mountain’s Museum of World Religions (MWR), often endearingly dubbed the ‘Museum of Mind', secured a seat on the bandwagon of riding on the WHO’s ‘Museum Prescriptions’ Project* with formal recognition by frontline caseworkers of the Community Mental Health Center, Mental Health Division, Health Bureau of the New Taipei City. The MWR stands a good chance of adding a new hat to its capacity as a rehab venue for holistic healing for designated cases, thereby making extra contributions to MWR’s core interest in life education.

The MWR is situated in Yongho, New Taipei City, and it’s all about exploring the 'the function of mind'. The museum enjoys a unique design of space for contents ranging from art, civilization, history, etc., with objects to look at, listen to, and at times even feel its texture and mass. As such, it is a place of education, where the body and soul can sink into the depths of appreciation of life. The museum starts off with the 3 big questions of life and explores the depths of life’s meaning and value by way of showcasing models of religious architecture, offering exhibitions of the religious rituals of life and death, cultural festivities, etc., and displaying the diversity of art. These are the quintessential elements of the museum’s core mission of life education. Thus accordingly, visiting museums have become the best possible immersing vehicle for caring about life.

The MWR partnered up with local health authorities in 2023 and run a tailor-made workshop for New Taipei City Community Mental Health Center frontline professional workers. Special Commissioner of the New Taipei City Health Bureau, CHEN Yu-Tse, was invited to share her insight into the WHO’s ‘Museum Prescriptions’ Project and its promotions with MWR personnel and volunteers. It is hoped that when such ‘museum prescriptions’ are indeed issued by mental health experts, MWR will prove to be a key partner with medical institutions as well as vocational rehabilitation facilities.

The general sentiment is that the MWR is capable of doing more, so said Chen Yu-Tse, referring to aspects such as many features of the museum’s built-in design, the stories the museum’s tour guides share, etc., that lend themselves easily to what the Health Bureau does in areas such as suicide prevention, schizophrenia, and/or addictioin, can prove a strong ‘prescription for the heart’. Cases in point: tour guides cite the Japanese tradition of celebrating a special day for children aged 3, 5, and 7 on November 15, or mention that some families in Taiwan offer their young children for a nominal adoption by the deities for blessings, and the practices are considered helpful in healing the trauma of losing children in their young age. On the other hand, the customs of a Judaic marriage contract can shed light on how to make a home and allow home violence perpetrators to grasp the magnitude of their actions.

Attendants of the afore-mentioned workshop for New Taipei City Community Mental Health Center workers enjoyed their initial contact to the MWR and unanimously gave their thumbs up for a gratifying experience. Both the museum’s permanent exhibitions with religious objects and showcases that center around the theme of respect, tolerance, and compassion as actively promoted by Dharma Master Hsin Tao the museum founder, as well as special exhibitions themed on the baptism of life’s 5 stages, or reflective ideas coming from ‘Life & Death, Day & Night’ entice them to try out what they learned from the workshop.

Mental Health Center specialist LIN Yu-Ching said that she visited the MWR three times to date in 2023 and each time she felt inspired in different ways. She was most impressed by the statement that everyone actually starts to face the issue of death shortly after birth when touring the Hall of Life’s Journey, And the wall with built-in thermal sensors to gauge the warmth coming from people’s palms at the end of the ‘Pilgrimage Trail’ exhibit affords visitors with the sudden realization that life manifests itself in different shapes and forms, and it runs its full course before passing away. Her takeaway is that here at the MWR, one acquires an intangible strength of support to move forward in facing life’s challenges of how to seize the moment, avoid self-mutilation, stay away from substance abuse, and for other individual cases she’s assigned to.

Museum volunteers and Community Mental Health Center case workers share their views on how to face up to the issue of death and how best to help the cases they work on to understand that life is too short to stay depressed or unhappy. They agree to prioritize the notion that life is precious and it must be cherished by appreciating oneself and inflecting no harm onto oneself, let alone others. Once you get through to what is behind the notion of self-appreciation, behavior changes become possible. It turned out to be a widely shared consensus among Mental Health Center workers that more field day programs at the MWR can follow on the heels of the initial exploration in the hope that a modular approach can be designed to help optimize future visits when their patients can tour the MWR for a short trip with lasting healing effect.

MWR section chief in charge of education and promotion, LIN Jih-Jieh said that the Museum is all set to roll out a year-round soul-healing program entitled ‘365 To The Soul’ that aims to recruit 250 enrollment at NT$200/per. Pass holders will have unlimited access to the MWR’s permanent exhibits during the year. Bodies and institutions of life education, mental health, social welfare, etc., can thus book the museum’s space for visits for their respective target groups to embark on journeys of self-discovery, self-identification, and soul-healing.