More than 100,000 people with mental ill health in England engaged with the Reading Well Books on Prescription scheme in its first three months, according to library service estimates.
The estimate is based on loan figures of recommended titles, which increased by 145% in the 3 months after the Books on Prescription scheme was launched in June 2013.
Books on Prescription provides self-help reading for adults based on cognitive behavioural therapy for a range of common mental health conditions including anxiety, depression, phobias and eating disorders. The scheme supports people to self-manage by signposting to expert-endorsed book-based therapy available for free from public libraries either as a stand-alone treatment or alongside other approaches such as talking therapies or medication.
Popular titles on the Books on Prescription list include Overcoming Anxiety: A Self-help Guide Using Cognitive Behavioural Techniques by Helen Kennerley (Constable Robinson) and Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway (Vermilion) by Susan Jeffers.
Gill Taft, a Books on Prescription user, said: “I’ve worried for so many years about why I get depression and anxiety but I’ve never had anyone explain it to me before. The books have helped me so much in understanding things like what can bring on a panic attack, and why it makes me feel the way it does. Now if I’m having a bad day, I drop in the library and pick up a book.”
Norman Lamb, Care and Support Minister, said: “Mental health conditions like anxiety and depression are common and by helping people understand them, we can ensure they are better equipped to manage their own health. That’s why this scheme is so valuable as it makes this vital information available in local libraries and free of charge so everybody can access it. I am delighted to see the scheme has got off to a strong start and I look forward to seeing it used by health professionals to complement the range of options for support available.”
Alan Davey, chief executive of Arts Council England, added: “This outcome firmly demonstrates how libraries continue to be an essential part of our communities, and are able to apply their core purpose in innovative ways that support our partners, and more importantly, help support local people to support themselves.”
Following the success of the Books on Prescription scheme, Arts Council England has agreed to fund further work on how libraries can support people with dementia.
Janene Cox, president of the Society of Chief Librarians, said: “This is an excellent result for the first stage of the Reading Well Books on Prescription scheme and we are confident that take up of this offer will increase as more people learn about it. We are really pleased the Arts Council have recognized this project and have agreed to help libraries support people living with dementia.”