Norfolk County Council Library and Information Service launches 'Reading Well for mental health'

05 June 2018

The “life-saving” 2018 ‘Reading Well for mental health’ titles by The Reading Agency and Society of Chief Librarians were announced today at a flagship event at the Wellcome Trust (5 June).  Each title will offer invaluable support to people with mental health needs and their carers, who are at increased risk of loneliness according to recent research.

2018’s powerful book list, which will help people read well to stay well, is penned by bestselling and highly-regarded authors including Matt Haig (How to Stay Alive); Cathy Rentzenbrink (A Manual for Heartache); Sathnam Sanghera (The Boy with the Topknot); Ruby Wax (A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled) and many more.  The expert-endorsed reads can be borrowed for free from any Norfolk library – if the book isn’t available, a free reservation will be placed to order the book in to the library.

Since its launch in 2013, the Reading Well programme has impacted the lives of over 778,000 people in the UK.  Katie Clarke-Day, who lives with multiple long-term conditions, has helped co-produce the scheme with the Reading Agency and Society of Chief Librarians.  She was engaged in everything from book selection to shaping the language and images used in Reading Well materials.  Katie believes this scheme has the power to save lives and combat isolation.

Norfolk Libraries provide a range of social activities for adults, such as ‘Just a Cuppa’ coffee mornings, board game groups, book clubs and ‘Colour Me Calm’ sessions – colouring provides an easy way to relax and unwind.  All of these activities help support the health and wellbeing of local communities, providing opportunities for people to socialise and to combat loneness and isolation.

The list is curated with mental health experts and includes books to support people undergoing talking therapies, as well as guided and unguided self-help.

This year the government appointed a Minister for Loneliness to address the growing “loneliness epidemic”, and in April 2018 the Office for National Statistics released a report raising awareness of the link between health and isolation.  People with a health condition are 56% more likely to report loneliness than those without, and those with caring rel="noopener noreferrer" responsibilities were 37% more likely to be lonely.

Journalist and author Sathnam Sanghera experienced first-hand the challenges of growing up with relatives living with mental health conditions: his father and eldest sister had schizophrenia.  This inspired his touching Sunday Times bestselling memoir, which was adapted for television – The Boy with the Topknot.  It has been chosen as one of the 2018 ‘Reading Well for mental health’ books.

Councillor Margaret Dewsbury, Chair of the Communities Committee at Norfolk County Council, said:  “This is a great initiative and I am pleased that our library service is able to support the scheme and get involved.  There are some powerful and helpful books available for anyone who’s experiencing concerns about their mental health and they’re all available at your local library.”

Louise Smith, Director of Public Health, said:  “Norfolk has a high proportion of long term ill mental health compared to the national average so is a big priority for us.  We are pleased to support the Reading Well project alongside other initiatives that help to reduce stigma and help tackle the problem.”

There is a lot you can do to look after yourself rel="noopener noreferrer" if you are experiencing mental ill-health, visit the NHS One You pages for more information.

Katie Clarke-Day, Reading Well co-producer from the Coalition for Collaborative Care, says:  “Mental health issues are still shrouded in stigma.  They are also by their nature isolating and scary.  There is a lot of information contained within these books that could save lives, sometimes just the simple recognition that the way you feel has a name or that other people felt this too.  I don’t think we can underestimate the power of this list …  I also have a lot of respect for libraries both in terms of the wealth of knowledge stored in the books they contain but also in the community space and hub of activity they provide for so many people across the country.”

Sathnam Sanghera, Reading Well author, says:  “It is said that we read to know we are not alone, and this is especially the case with mental health, one of the most isolating diseases around. Hopefully initiatives like this make sufferers and their carers feel less lonely.”

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