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Tuesday 14 October 2014

Libraries scheme to boost mental health proves a ‘bestseller’ in Cheshire East


Cheshire East libraries have proved a major success at helping support people with mental health issues.

The ground-breaking Reading Well Books on Prescription scheme has seen a more than doubling in the number of self-help books being borrowed by people in Cheshire East suffering mental health issues.

The news was announced today for World Mental Health Day.

Cheshire East libraries issued an impressive 3,259 titles under the ‘books on prescription’ scheme during the period June 2013 to May 2014. This is a 62.5 per cent increase on the 1,223 titles loaned in the previous year.

The three most popular titles (in order) were: Mind Over Mood; Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway; and Overcoming Anxiety.

Councillor Janet Clowes, Cheshire East Council Cabinet member in charge of care and health in the community, said: “It is really helpful to know that these resources, which have been fully accredited by the appropriate medical authorities, are available for free from public libraries.

“The scheme can support early intervention to improve mental health wellbeing as well as be offered alongside medication or other psychological interventions. It can also offer support while people are waiting for treatment – or following treatment.

“This extends the flexibility of support available. It is also about empowering and informing people, which is so important.”

Launched in June 2013, the first nationwide books-on-prescription scheme in England has reached around 275,000 people with book-based therapy for common mental health conditions available from public libraries.

Cheshire East Council’s libraries service stocks a wide selection of titles ranging from overcoming depression, how to stop worrying and overcoming low self-esteem.

Evidence shows that self-help reading can benefit people with certain mental health conditions, around three-quarters of people surveyed said their book had helped them understand more about their condition and feel more confident about managing their symptoms.

The scheme has played an important role in helping to meet the huge need for mental health support. Recent figures indicate there are around eight million people in England suffering from anxiety or depression alone and three-quarters of this group may not be receiving treatment.

GPs and health professionals can prescribe books but they are also available for anyone to borrow from their local library. While there are around 7,000 prescribers using the scheme nationally, 80 per cent of people who borrowed a book had self-referred by picking up a leaflet, often in their local library.

All the evidence suggests it has helped people suffering metal health problems. In a recent survey, nearly everyone who had borrowed a book from the Reading Well Books on Prescription core list of 30 titles said it had been helpful.

Carole, a Reading Well Books on Prescription user, said: “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. While 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.”

Improved confidence around managing symptoms was also reported by nearly all of the GPs and health professionals, surveyed nationally, who had prescribed books from the list, while just under half felt the scheme had saved them consultation time. 

Following the success of Reading Well Books on Prescription for common mental health conditions, a new dementia scheme will be launched in libraries in January 2015.

Councillor David Brown, Deputy Leader of Cheshire East Council, said: “Libraries are an important resource in all communities, providing trusted, safe and valued places where people can find information and advice that can help them in so many areas of their lives.

“It’s really great news to learn that library book loans in this important and innovative scheme have more than doubled and I look forward to more success with the reading scheme in 2015.”

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