In a Johannesburg hospital in South Africa, students are using laughter to help young patients going through their healing process.
These troupe of budding clown doctors entertain young patients in a bid to distract them from their pain.
They have theatrical backgrounds and visit various hospitals in the city as part of their medical clown training, a skill that promotes the use of laughter in a therapeutic setting.
When the clowns get here, they start playing, forgetting they have pain and all that. I love that.
“We go there to help them feel better, not to heal them as if we could heal them, we know the pain is there but we are not going to take the pain away, but we are going to change their minds, prevent them from thinking about it. And that’s a good thing, said one of the students, Hezyl Mashao.
“When the clowns get here, they start playing, forgetting they have pain and all that. I love that”, said one parent Portia Molokomme.
The artists were trained by Amnon Raviv, the first clown doctor in the world to have a doctorate in the field. For him, laughter is no doubt a formidable weapon in the fight against disease.
“We give training here, the fundamentals of work, they have to take those fundamentals and adapt them. Since the clowns here are South African, they will know how best to adapt them to the hospital environment here. But here in training, we have ten days of training, we teach the fundamentals that we find everywhere “, Dr. Raviv said.
Dr. Raviv is recognized in Israel for his 23 years of work in the field of medical clownery. He supports, an NGO Dr. Heartbeat to set up its own programs.
There is very little research into the connection between laughter and disease remission but some clinical studies have shown that it raises oxygen levels in the lungs, lowers blood pressure and reduces the stress hormone, cortisol.
Medical clowning has long been used in children’s hospitals in Israel, the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia.
In recent years, numerous studies have shown that medical clowning reduces anxiety and pain in patient and helps patients cope better with the disease and its consequences.
Laughter is generally seen as a natural anti-stress mechanism.