Professor Neil Frude, clinical psychologist and founder of the original books on prescription initiative in Wales, was a guest last week on The Idea, a Radio Wales program hosted by Catrin Nye, featuring inspiring interviews on big ideas. The episode, ‘Lonely Planet’, focused on what we can do about the rise of loneliness.
A simple idea?
In some ways, is it too simple an idea, Catrin Nye wonders, that books can really help when someone is struggling with their mental health? Neil explains that while it may be a simple idea, it is a very powerful one. ‘Therapy by the book’, or bibliotherapy, in terms of availability and effectiveness, both emotional and financial, has proved to be highly successful. Because, although psychological therapy can be very effective, the delivery of such therapy must contend with the challenges of limited availability or capacity.
This is where Reading Well Books on Prescription can help. Bibliotherapy uses existing public services, making use of available resources, public libraries, health professionals, and high-quality books carefully selected by experts. Reading Well has been widely supported by leading charities and professional bodies. Over 2.6 million Reading Well books have been borrowed from local public libraries and 91% of people surveyed found their book helpful.
How can reading help tackle loneliness?
Lockdowns during the coronavirus pandemic have exacerbated a mental health crisis, and loneliness has a big part to play. Depression and linked conditions like anxiety reached alarming levels in Wales even before the pandemic, with 17% of adults taking anti-depressants.
Neil wants to spread the word that GPs and health professionals can also prescribe books for mental health problems: “There is plenty of evidence to show that using books to improve mental health works. The average cost to the public per book borrowed is about £1 so you’re delivering a therapy for £1”.
Reading has the power to offer comfort, solace, and advice when we need it most. Books can give you useful advice, solve a problem, keep you company or give you an escape. In our recommended self-help reading the author can guide you, giving you hope and encouragement.
Catrin summed it up well: “All of the books recommended offer hope”.
Browse Reading Well books or download a full overview of the titles. To find out more about the impact of Reading Well and bibliotherapy in Wales, you can watch our webinar with Professor Neil Frude, alongside Senior Librarians and Community Navigators.