Libraries in England have reported that loans of mental health self-help books have increased by 97% under the Reading Well Books on Prescription scheme.
The scheme, which launched in 2013, offers free book "prescriptions" for common mental health conditions and dementia and is backed by The Reading Agency and the Society of Chief Librarians (SCL).
A new two-year evaluation has revealed that loans of mental health self-help books through the new “ground-breaking” scheme have increased by 97%. Libraries have also seen a 346% increase in loans of books specifically aimed at people with dementia this year.
Ciara Eastell, SCL president, and Debbie Hicks, creative director and founder member of The Reading Agency, said: “We are delighted with these results, which show just how effective reading can be in supporting people with a range of health needs. The scheme’s success demonstrates that libraries have an important role to play in public health in local communities, and we look forward to rolling out more national health programmes like this one.
The first national Books on Prescription scheme offering “book-based therapy and helpful reading” has now reached around 445,000 people. The programme has been available for free in 97% of public libraries and has played an “important role in helping to meet the public need for support with understanding and managing their mental health and well-being”, The Reading Agency and SCL have said.
According to the organisations, the scheme has been endorsed by the public, GPs, mental health professionals and government ministers as a "helpful community-based mental health service".
The Reading Agency and SCL plan to launch a new booklist or refresh an existing one approximately every year. Each scheme runs for approximately three or four years, after which the booklist is refreshed to ensure material remains relevant and up to date. A booklist supporting young people’s mental health is in development and will launch next year.