Mental Health Awareness Week – Surviving or Thriving?

Read, learn and connect with us during this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week –

Libraries’ positive contribution to the mental well-being of the population is well documented – see the Arts Council’s publication on ‘The health and wellbeing benefits of public libraries.’ 

I say population and not just customers or residents as it has been said that living near a library and, indeed, just walking past a library has a positive effect on one’s emotional and mental well-being.

Of course we in libraries are keen to invite people to come through the doors and experience the well-being benefits first hand. The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is ‘Surviving or Thriving’ which encourages us to look at our physical and mental well-being.

Some of our offers are more obviously health focused, our health information displays encourage us to feed our brains with the right food and suggest ways to be more active, as well as giving information on managing and living well with chronic conditions.  Poor physical health can be a drain on our mental and emotional strength and poor mental health can lead to inactivity, poor diet and so the cycle continues.

One way to break cycles of unhelpful thoughts and behaviours is cognitive behavioural therapy and in the West London Clinical Commissioning Group area there is Time to Talk, a free psychological therapy service.

In order to help people decide whether this service is for them or for support while waiting for a referral, or during, or after therapy, the libraries’ Reading Well Books on Prescription collections are recommended by GPs and health promotion specialists. A new collection put together to support those living with chronic conditions will be launched in July this year.

The Reading Well Books on Prescription initiative is part of our Bibliotherapy offer. Our libraries host read aloud groups in partnership with The Reader Organisation. These facilitator led Book Break groups meet every week and give members the opportunity to join in reading aloud from good literature and discuss what has been read over a cup of tea or coffee or just sit back, listen and enjoy the company.

It is encouraging to look at how we in libraries contribute to what is called ‘the wider determinants of health’  All the things in our lives that support us, family, work, employment, housing, finances, education, lifelong learning, English classes, coffee mornings, knitting groups, activities for children and teenagers, employment advice, business information points for entrepreneurs old and young, all these available in libraries.

Libraries have always been inspirational and aspirational encouraging us to ask for more learning and knowledge and skills to create meaningful lives for ourselves and our families.

There are also some very good enjoyable fiction books available free to borrow hard copy or online! See our new book displays or see what eBooks and eMagazines we have. Did you know that reading for as little as six minutes can improve mental well-being?

See what you can do this Mental Health Awareness week to look after your own mental well-being, eat well, sleep well, go for a walk in one of our gorgeous parks and yes, visit your local library.

Kate Gielgud
Health Information Co-ordinator

Shelf Help for Teens

During the month of April people across London have been reading the same book about riot and civil unrest as part of Cityread London. Ten Days by Gillian Slovo is about power play, racial tension, rioting and disorder: a perfect storm where characters just boil over – they can’t take any more.

It’s a reflection of life: sometimes times get hard and that’s when a lot of people through the ages have turned to books, both writing and reading them (Shakespeare had a lot to get out of his system, and he did it so well that we remember him 400 years later!). Young adults especially face a lot of pressure in their lives. 

Here in libraries we’ve a got a brand new collection of books for young people between the ages of 13 and 18. The collection (Books on Prescription) was launched last week and they’re already flying off the shelves. There are books about depression, anxiety, eating disorders, self harm, living with autism and more. They are really helpful and some are funny too (you’ve got to see the funny side sometimes!). Some of the books are a bit like guides or reference books and some are fiction but based on real people and real lives. They’ve been chosen by young people with experience of mental health issues, and you can find them in your local library, browse the collection online or even have them recommended to you by your doctor.

Some titles include:

  • eatingdisCan I tell you about eating disorders? A guide for friends, family and professionals. This book has been written for 7-15 year olds to help them understand and learn about different eating disorders.
  • Vicious: true stories by teens about bullying. Teens write about their experiences with bullying of all kinds; physical, verbal, relational and cyber.
  • Banish your body image thief. An imaginative workbook looking at what body image means and how it develops, and is packed with strategies to help you change how you think and act in order to build a positive body image.

 

 

 

Look at the Young Minds website for further sources of help and information. Don’t forget to have a look in your local library for our new Books on Prescription: ask a member of staff, or look for the BOP stickers on the spine.

 

bop1

 

 

Happy 4th birthday to Book Break!

This is a guest blog post by Megg Hewlett, Project Worker for Get Into Reading London. Over the last four years she has established and run the Book Break reading groups in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

Book Break logo
Enjoy a book with a cup of a tea!

It’s four years since the first Book Break shared reading groups began in Kensington and Chelsea. Since then we’ve read with people in many settings including libraries, hospitals, mental health services, schools, alcohol and drug services, community centres and workplaces.

Book Break is delivered by The Reader Organisation, an award-winning social enterprise working to connect people with great literature and each other, in partnership with Kensington and Chelsea libraries. There’s more information about Get Into Reading and The Reader Organisation on their website.

The Reader Organisation's logo
The Reader Organisation’s logo

We create places where personal responses to books are freely shared. Our projects allow us to reach a diverse range of people, readers and non readers, extending the individual experience of literature and building strong mutually supportive communities that read together.

“You need it, you just don’t know you need it.”

Book Break groups are stimulating, friendly and non-pressured. They provide stability, support and enjoyment. All texts are read aloud so anyone can get involved – readers and non readers alike.

Enjoying sharing the same story
Enjoying sharing the same story

Groups are led by trained project workers and volunteers, meeting each week to read books and poems together in locations such as care homes, libraries, prisons, mental health centres, community centres, schools, hostels, refugee centres and workplaces. We read aloud, slowly, taking time over each text, allowing thoughts, connections and understanding to emerge.

“It’s not just about reading or getting to know the story. It’s about having our opinions about things as well.”

Members can choose to join in, or not, and at times the reading will stop to allow some talk about parts of the text, discussing what it might mean, or reflect on similar experiences of their own. The effects are subtle, and profound.

“Sometimes you can see different people having different ideas. You take something one way and someone else might take it a different way, and it makes you think. You respect other people’s opinions.”

A relaxed, friendly atmosphere is created in each group. Over time, people build up a confidence that enables them to tell their own stories, as well as to forge close relationships with fellow readers.

Reading along with the story
Reading along with the story

For some readers, this prompts new aspirations, and the searching out of further learning and support that will help rebuild their lives. For others, their reading group is a lifeline, helping to keep them on a more even keel. For all, it is a regular lift each week.

“It sets me up for the week”

Want to join one of our Book Break groups? Full details of when are where the groups meet can be found on the bibliotherapy page on Kensington and Chelsea libraries’ website. You can also contact me on megghewlett@thereader.org.uk

Megg Hewlett 

Project Worker, Get Into Reading London