2018 Reading Well aims to combat mental health stigma with books by Matt Haig, Sathnam Sanghera and Ruby Wax

“Initiatives like this make people with mental health conditions and their carers feel less lonely.”

Sathnam Sanghera (Reading Well author, The Boy with the Topknot)

5 June 2018: The “life-saving” 2018 ‘Reading Well for mental health’ titles from The Reading Agency and Society of Chief Librarians will be celebrated today at a flagship event at the Wellcome Trust (5 June). Each title will offer invaluable support to people with mental health needs and their carers, who are at increased risk of loneliness according to recent research.

2018’s powerful book list, which will help people to understand and manage their mental health, is penned by bestselling and highly-regarded authors including Matt Haig (Reasons to Stay Alive); Cathy Rentzenbrink (A Manual for Heartache); Sathnam Sanghera (The Boy with the Topknot); Ruby Wax (A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled) and many more. The expert-endorsed reads, which also include self-help titles, are available free in libraries across England.

“An absolutely brilliant scheme”

Matt Haig says:

“Reading Well is an absolutely brilliant scheme that recognises the true proven therapeutic power of words. It will help people facing mental struggles to feel understood, and to get help. This scheme will improve, and maybe even save, many lives.”

Since its launch in 2013, the Reading Well programme has impacted the lives of over 778,000 people in the UK. Katie Clarke-Day, who lives with multiple long-term conditions, has helped to co-produce the scheme with The Reading Agency, Society of Chief Librarians and health professionals. She was engaged in everything from book selection, to shaping the language and images used in Reading Well materials. Katie believes this scheme has the power to save lives and combat isolation.

Katie Clarke-Day, Reading Well co-producer from the Coalition for Collaborative Care, says:

“Mental health issues are still shrouded in stigma. They are also by their nature isolating and scary. There is a lot of information contained within these books that could save lives, sometimes just the simple recognition that the way you feel has a name or that other people felt this too. I don’t think we can underestimate the power of this list … I also have a lot of respect for libraries both in terms of the wealth of knowledge stored in the books they contain but also in the community space and hub of activity they provide for so many people across the country.”

“It’s important to see schemes like this which encourage people to talk and help reduce stigma”

Jackie Doyle-Price, Minister for Mental Health and Inequalities, says:

“We know that some people can be hesitant to access support, or may be looking for advice on how to help someone else dealing with a mental health issue – Reading Well is a welcome initiative to help empower people and inform everyone about their own mental health. This Government is committed to improving mental health across the country and it’s important to see schemes like this which encourage people to talk and help reduce stigma.”


The list is curated with mental health experts and includes books to support people undergoing talking therapies, as well as guided and unguided self-help and cognitive behavioural therapy titles.

This year the government appointed a Minister for Loneliness to address the growing “loneliness epidemic”, and in April 2018 the Office for National Statistics released a report raising awareness of the link between health and isolation. People with a health condition are 56% more likely to report loneliness than those without, and those with caring responsibilities were 37% more likely to be lonely.

Journalist and author Sathnam Sanghera experienced first-hand the challenges of growing up with relatives living with mental health conditions: his father and eldest sister had schizophrenia. His experiences inspired his touching Sunday Times bestselling memoir, which was adapted for television – The Boy with the Topknot. It has been chosen as one of the 2018 ‘Reading Well for mental health’ books.

Sathnam Sanghera, Reading Well author, says:

“It is said that we read to know we are not alone, and this is especially the case with mental health. Hopefully initiatives like this make people with these conditions and their carers feel less lonely.”

“1 in 4 of us will face a mental health issue at some point in our lives”

Debbie Hicks, Creative Director of The Reading Agency, says:

“We are delighted to be launching the new strand of this life changing programme, which uses the proven power of reading to help people manage their mental health and wellbeing. 1 in 4 of us will face a mental health issue at some point in our lives; this scheme, quality assured by medical professionals and people with lived experience, provides a much needed, trusted source of information.”

Neil MacInnes, President of the Society of Chief Librarians, says:

“Since its launch in 2013, Reading Well has reached hundreds of thousands of library users and helped to demonstrate how much libraries contribute to health and wellbeing at a local and national level. We are immensely proud to work with The Reading Agency to deliver this new strand of the programme, which has been widely endorsed by health professionals, as part of our Universal Health Offer in libraries.”

Reading Well is funded by Arts Council England and Wellcome. Simon Chaplin, Director of Culture and Society at Wellcome says:

“Public libraries are amazing places, with a vital role to play creating healthier communities. By bringing together the role of public libraries as trusted providers with expertise from across the health sector, Reading Well has the potential to improve people’s lives, and Wellcome is proud to be a partner in the scheme.”

Mags Patten, Executive Director Public Policy and Communication at Arts Council England says:

“At Arts Council England, we believe that reading helps people to understand and manage their health and wellbeing. The Reading Well scheme is a prime example that shows the value of reading and how libraries can be safe spaces for people with mental health conditions. The scheme is making a real difference to people’s lives and I am thrilled that we were able to invest in this scheme.”

Get involved

Click here to learn more about Reading Well

Browse the booklist on the Reading Well website

Share your Reading Well stories with us via Twitter. You can also donate to The Reading Agency through our Just Giving page here

The Reading Agency

Join our mailing list

Get our newsletters to stay up to date with programme news, resources, news and more.

Back to Top