Demonstrating the enormous need for self-help for mental health, English public libraries have reported major success with a new scheme of free book 'prescriptions' for common mental health conditions and dementia. A new two year evaluation released today shows that loans of mental health self-help books in the ground-breaking Reading Well Books on Prescription scheme have increased by 97%. English libraries also saw a 346% increase in loans of books specifically aimed at people with dementia in 2015.
The first national Books on Prescription scheme in England has now reached around 445,000 people, with book-based therapy and helpful reading.
Available for free in 97% of public libraries, Reading Well Books on Prescription has played an important role in helping to meet the public need for support with understanding and managing their mental health and wellbeing. Recent figures indicate that nearly a fifth of adults in the UK experience anxiety or depression alone, and three quarters of this group may not be receiving any treatment.
In a very successful first two years, Reading Well Books on Prescription has been endorsed by the public as well as by GPs, mental health professionals and Government ministers as a helpful community-based mental health service. As the new report reveals, ninety per cent of those who had borrowed a book from the Reading Well Books on Prescription common mental health core list of 30 titles said it had been helpful; 85% said that reading the books made them feel more confident about managing their symptoms. Over half (55%) felt it had helped reduce their symptoms.
Improved confidence around managing symptoms
The new Reading Well Books on Prescription for dementia scheme has already had a significant impact on the health and wellbeing of its users. 92% have found it to be helpful, while 79% of carers of people with dementia and 73% of people with dementia report that self-help reading has helped them understand more about the condition.
GPs and health professionals can prescribe the expert-endorsed books, but they are also available free for anyone to borrow from their local library. While there are around 6,500 prescribers using the scheme, 73% of people who borrowed a book had 'self-referred' by picking up a leaflet, often in their local library.
Improved confidence around managing symptoms was also reported by nearly all of the GPs and health professionals surveyed who had prescribed books from the list, while just under half felt the scheme had saved them consultation time.
"It was really useful to take the book home"
Carole, Reading Well Books on Prescription user, says:
"It was really useful to take the book home and work on it in my own time. The fact that it got me doing some of the exploration and understanding work made me feel as if I'd got some control back. I found myself looking forward to reading it. The library staff were wonderful. Whilst I was there, I mentioned I was in the dark ages with my computer skills. The librarian signed me up to classes there and then."
Helena McKeown, GP and British Medical Association council member, says:
"Reading Well Books on Prescription is a fantastic scheme. I use it a lot with patients. Some are willing to try Books on Prescription, when they might not be willing to try other forms of treatment. The scheme also has cross-benefits; when people take the book home, their partner may pick it up too. Their partner might not dream of visiting the surgery themselves, but they might pick up a book that helps them to manage their mental health."
The scheme comes from independent charity The Reading Agency and the Society of Chief Librarians, and is an important development in public libraries' universal health offer.
Ciara Eastell, Society of Chief Librarians, and Debbie Hicks, The Reading Agency say:
"We are delighted with these results, which show just how effective reading can be in supporting people with a range of health needs. The scheme's success demonstrates that libraries have an important role to play in public health in local communities, and we look forward to rolling out more national health programmes like this one. We are currently working on a new list to support young people with common mental health conditions, which will be launched in spring 2016."
Reading Well Books on Prescription for common mental health conditions works within National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines and is supported by the Royal College of General Practitioners, Royal College of Nursing, Royal College of Psychiatrists, The British Psychological Society, NHS England's Improving Access to Psychological Therapies Programme (IAPT), British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies, British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, the National Association of Primary Care and Mind.
Read the full report
Find out more about Reading Well, which includes Reading Well Mood-boosting Books, Reading Well Books on Prescription for dementia and Reading Well Books on Prescription.