readingwellPublic libraries across England have launched a scheme to support young people experiencing mental health issues with expert endorsed books available to borrow for free.

Reading Well for young people is part of the successful Reading Well Books on Prescription scheme and will provide 13-18-year-olds with high-quality information, support and advice on a range of mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders and self-harm, and difficult life pressures, like bullying and exams. 

With the proportion of 15-16-year-olds reporting that they frequently feel anxious or depressed having doubled in the last 30 years, there is an enormous need for quality assured mental health information and advice for young people. Co-created with a panel of young people who have had experience of mental health issues, the new Reading Well scheme helps young people to understand and manage their wellbeing and emotional resilience.

Reading Well for young people's recommended reading list of 35 books were selected by mental health experts and young people. The list includes self-help and information titles, as well as memoir, graphic novels and fiction. They include influential novels The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon and The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky and popular non-fiction such as Mind Your Head by Juno Dawson, Blame My Brain: The Amazing Teenage Brain Revealed by Nicola Morgan and The Self-Esteem Team's Guide to Sex, Drugs and WTFs?!! Self-help guides such as Banish Your Body Image Thief and Breaking Free from OCD are also available.

Natasha Devon MBE, founder of the Self-Esteem Team, said: "In a time when information on mental health is instantly accessible, abundant and mostly unverified one of the commonest questions the Self-Esteem Team are asked by young people is 'how do I know who I can trust?' That's why Reading Well provides such a crucial role in mental health and wellbeing; it is a much needed, trusted source and therefore a place where young people can feel that most important of all things – safe."

The books can be recommended by GPs, school nurses, counsellors and other health professionals and they're available for anyone to borrow for free from public libraries. 

Gaby, a young advisor from YoungMinds who helped select the books on the list, said: “I believe Reading Well will challenge stereotypes and misconceptions surrounding mental illness, educating young people about mental health in general. The easy accessibility of the books that are part of the scheme is key, enabling young people to explore the topic of mental health discretely and at a speed they are comfortable with.”

The scheme is being run in partnership with the Society of Chief Librarians (SCL) and the Association of Senior Children's and Education Librarians. It is funded by Arts Council England and the Wellcome Trust. It is supported by a range of health organisations including NHS England (IAPT), Public Health England, Mental Health Foundation, Mind and YoungMinds. 

Debbie Hicks, creative director at The Reading Agency and Ciara Eastell, president of the SCL, said: “The new Reading Well scheme has been designed to help young people cope with the pressures of life and feel more confident about dealing with difficult feelings and experiences. It is quality assured and evidence based and will be available through the public library network across the country, ensuring it will be a new frontline community service to support young people's wellbeing and emotional resilience. SCL and The Reading Agency are delighted to be working together with health partners and other networks such as schools and colleges to deliver this important new development in the public library health offer.”

Sir Peter Bazalgette, chair of the Arts Council, added: “At the Arts Council, we've long-believed in the transformative powers of arts and culture for people's health - and libraries play a large part in this. The new Reading Well for Young People programme has the potential to make a real difference to the lives of young people and so I'm delighted that we have been able to invest in it.”