This week public libraries are launching a new service called Reading Well Books on Prescription to help people through self-help in book form. This means you can go to your library for books which experts and many GP's have endorsed as helping with conditions such as anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, phobias and some eating disorders.
On 4 June the official launch of the Reading Well Books on Prescription scheme took place at The National Association of Primary Care, attended by Minister for Culture, Communications and the Creative Industries Ed Vaizey, and Minister of State for Care and Support, Norman Lamb. The event was supported by the National Association for Primary Care and Campden Health.
One in four people will experience mental health problems during their lives. There are an estimated six million people with anxiety and depression, yet three quarters get no treatment. Reading Well Books on Prescription uses book-based cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to help people understand and manage common mental health conditions. We have been developing the scheme with the Society of Chief Librarians and local library services.
Dr James Kingsland, GP and champion of the scheme says: "We're all looking for new ways to help patients with mental health problems improve their self-care and general well-being, especially in such tough economic times. The usual GP appointment of 10 minutes is rarely sufficient for these patients, so extra tools to compliment the consultation and provide on-going help and motivation are necessary. Reading Well Books on Prescription is brilliant. It will enable me and my fellow GPs to recommend book based cognitive behavioural therapy from libraries. This can be as a stand-alone treatment or alongside medication and other psychological interventions. This really is integrating care."
Norman Lamb, Minister of State for Care and Support, says: "Around six million people each year have depression or anxiety. This figure is increasing year on year and we need to make sure that the help and support is there for them in their time of need. The Books on Prescription scheme is a good way to see people getting this support, either as a standalone treatment or alongside other approaches such as talking therapies or medication. It can help someone to self-manage their own condition or provide them with the information they need to seek more help. This is about empowering and informing people which is so important, particularly as we know that some people are often hesitant to access conventional forms of support when it comes to mental health. I am glad to see that such books will be publicly and readily accessible on library shelves, encouraging dialogue and underlining what I have always believed - that mental health is everyone's business."
Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications and the Creative Industries, says: "Reading Well is an excellent example of how our libraries are offering new services to remain cornerstones of the communities they serve. Our public library service is thriving with 256 million visits to England's 3,243 libraries in 2011-12. Innovative services like Reading Well Books on Prescription will ensure libraries remain relevant and important to today's communities."
Gill Taft, 59, from Warwickshire has suffered with depression and anxiety at various points since her teenage years. Recently she and her husband both faced health problems and multiple operations but Gill tried to carry on as normal with caring for her elderly, blind mother and working full time. She was at her lowest point when she got a prescription for self-help books.
She says: "I've worried for so many years about why I get depression and anxiety, but I've never had anyone or anything really explain it to me before. The books I've been prescribed have helped me so much in understanding things like what can bring on an anxiety attack, and why it makes me feel the way it does." You can read more about Gill Taft's experience with Books on Prescription on our case studies page.
Reading Well Books on Prescription works within National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines. It is supported by the Royal College of General Practitioners, Royal College of Nursing, Royal College of Psychiatrists, The British Psychological Society, Department of Health's Improving Access to Psychological Therapies Programme (IAPT), British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies, British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy and Mind.
Paul Blenkiron, Consultant in Adult Psychiatry, York, NICE Fellow says: "Cognitive behavioral therapy can be a highly effective treatment for people with common mental health problems. The core booklist of 30 CBT based self-help books will be a real boost to the treatments currently available."
Janene Cox, Society of Chief Librarians and Debbie Hicks, our director of research, say: "A library visit can be the first step on the road to recovery for the millions of people with untreated mental health conditions. So we're excited to be working together build a powerful new era of collaboration between libraries and local heath partners to improve our communities' health and well-being."
When we announced plans for Reading Well Books on Prescription in January we received lots of media coverage including interviews on BBC Radio 4's World at One (starting at 23 minutes) and BBC Breakfast.
When the scheme launched Debbie Hicks was interviewed on BBC Radio 4's You and Yours programme (starting at 9 minutes), on the Today programme (starting at 50 minutes) and on BBC World Service News Hour (starting at 48 minutes).
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.
Read Debbie Hicks' speech from the launch event.
Health professionals, librarians and publishers can find resources for running the Reading Well Books on Prescription scheme on our resources page.