On 6 June Reading Well Books on Prescription was launched at an event attended by government ministers Ed Vaizey and Norman Lamb. Debbie Hicks, our director of research gave the following speech at the event.
A major step change
Today marks a major step change in the way in which libraries and reading can make a difference to people's lives. With third sector charity, The Reading Agency, working with the Society of Chief Librarians, local library services and health partners, to put combined muscle into promoting better mental health through the first national Reading Well Books on Prescription scheme for England.
We live in stressful times
There is massive unmet need for quality assured help with common mental health conditions. The London School of Economic's Mental Health Policy Group's recent report is shocking: Six million people in England struggle with depression and anxiety, three quarters of whom are getting no treatment. One in four people experiencing mental ill health in any one year is a familiar statistic but the harsh reality is that poor mental health ruins lives.
Reading Well Books on Prescription is an early intervention community service that can help people understand and manage their well-being. It complements existing treatments by providing quality assured self help reading for adults based on cognitive behavioural therapy for a range of common mental health conditions. These include anxiety, depression, worry, stress, phobias and some eating disorders. Books can be recommended by GPs and other health professionals from a core list of 30 expert endorsed titles available from local libraries across England where they can be borrowed with or without a recommendation, free of charge.
Because they're community hubs for books and reading. And recent research shows that people see the library as a safe, trusted and non-stigmatised place to go for help with and information about health. A trip to the local library for a health book can be an important first step on the road to recovery.
Books on Prescription isn't new. Reading Well builds on some fantastic English local schemes based on the successful Welsh model developed by the inspirational Professor Neil Frude. What is new is that acting as developer and aggregator, we have brought English public libraries together with health partners to deliver a cost effective, evidence based, Books on Prescription model that works within National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines.
What's also new are the national partnerships helping us get the model right and driving new local working relationships. We're enormously grateful to our champions from the Royal College of General Practitioners, Nursing and Psychiatrists, The British Psychological Society, the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies, the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, IAPT, Mind and the National Association for Primary Care. As well as to Share the Vision for helping make the scheme accessible for blind and partially sighted people.
The wider benefits of reading
And finally, this is a really important moment for The Reading Agency. The fruition of a major piece of thinking we've been developing since the late 90s about the wider health and well-being benefits of reading. We're particularly excited that Reading Well Books on Prescription not only helps people find quality assured self-help reading but also other library well being services such as mood-boosting novels and poetry and reading groups.
Find out more about Reading Well Books on Prescription and view the core booklist. There are written and audio samples of some of these books available on our website.
You can also find a Reading Well Mood-boosting Book by viewing our 2013 list of uplifting titles.
Listen to an article on Reading Well Books on Prescription on BBC Radio 4's You and Yours programme which includes an interview with Debbie Hicks. The article starts 9 minutes in.
Health professionals, librarians and publishers can find resources for running the scheme on our resources page.