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Social prescribing and Reading Well in North Wales

Conwy and Denbighshire library authorities in North Wales have a history of incredible collaborative work within their local community to ensure that their services reach as many people as possible, and during the pandemic that has been no exception.

By teaming up with their local community navigators, they have been able to ensure Reading Well Books on Prescription for mental health reach those in the community who could most benefit from the collection, supporting people’s mental health and wellbeing.

What is the role of a community navigator?

A community navigator (or link worker, wellbeing advisor, community connector, community health worker, community health agent, or health advisor, depending on local preference) works with local health boards and Primary Care Networks to support and refer people to local services such as libraries, walking clubs, gardening or arts activities, with the aim to deploy community assets that improve quality of life, health and wellbeing. This is known as “social prescribing”. Your GP or other health professional can refer you to a community navigator to provide non-medical support.

Case Study: Claire’s Story

Claire* was first referred to her local community navigator, Janet*, in December 2019 when she was due to be discharged from a psychiatric unit and was really struggling to cope with her anxiety.

Claire was supported by Janet for several months and was well on the way to managing her anxiety and had started to take up the interests she had once enjoyed. But, as with many of us, when Covid restrictions came into place in March 2020, Claire’s mental health started to decline. Whilst having to shield, Claire tried to put a routine in place that would prevent her from having too much time to overthink things which would end up triggering her anxiety, but this was becoming harder for her to manage alone.

Janet supported Claire on a daily basis with phone calls to reassure her and check she was managing but when it was apparent that she was battling with her anxiety, Janet suggested that Claire could try using Reading Well for mental health to support her wellbeing and manage her anxiety.

Through the connections that Conwy and Denbighshire Library Authorities had established with the community navigators, Janet was able to borrow several of the Reading Well titles on anxiety for Claire and provide them to her when they met up (maintaining social distancing guidelines). After reading the books, Claire was better able to manage her anxiety, to the extent that she started to once again go out and do some of the things she had enjoyed before. Claire’s confidence has increased so much that (lockdown restrictions permitting) she has since even become a volunteer at a local tourist attraction, talking to visitors and showing them around.

Claire accredits the vast improvement in her mental health to the support she received from Janet and to having access to the Reading Well books which played a huge part in helping her to manage her anxiety and realise that she wasn’t the only person suffering with this condition.

Claire agreed for the community navigators to close her case in September 2020 and, although she still has days when she really struggles, she now has the tools to help her manage her condition and knows that she can access Reading Well books on prescription through her library whenever she struggles in the future.

Which books?

The books that particularly helped Claire were An Introduction to Coping with Anxiety by Brenda Hogan and Lee Brosan, and Overcoming Worry and Generalised Anxiety Disorder by Kevin Meares & Mark Freeston.

Reading Well book collections are available for FREE from your local library (via click and collect while libraries are closed) and many titles are available to download as ebooks or audiobooks. Find your local library here.

Click here to browse all five Reading Well collections and watch our recent webinar Bibliotherapy and Reading Well in Wales to hear directly from Senior Librarians and Community Navigators working in North Wales.

Get involved

Get Involved – whether you are a librarian, link worker, health professional, teacher, parent, or carer, there are ways you can deliver Reading Well.

To sign up to the Reading Well newsletter email readingwell@readingagency.org.uk

*Not their real names

Image used does not represent any person mentioned in the case study.

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