The medicinal power of literature: Books on prescription to be introduced

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

'Mood boosting' poetry and novels to be recommended by GPs

People consulting their local GP over mental health issues may find they are written a surprising prescription, one redeemed at the local library rather than a pharmacy.

The “big guns” of the library and medical worlds have joined for an initiative to help treat those with mild to moderate mental health problems.

Patients could be recommended anything from one of 30 medical volumes dealing with specific conditions to “mood boosting books” – novels and poetry – from writers including Jo Brand, Bill Bryson and Terry Jones. 

The Society of Chief Librarians (SCL) and The Reading Agency today announced the scheme dubbed “Books on Prescription” which starts in May. “There’s growing evidence that shows that self-help reading can help people with certain mental health issues get better,” Miranda McKearney, director of The Reading Agency, said.

This forms part of a wider vision for the future of public libraries in the 21st century, including offering internet access and training, and potentially e-lending services.

Campaigners welcomed the initiatives but still feared not enough was being done to protect the libraries themselves. Desmond Clarke, who has been campaigning for eight years said: “There are some good ideas here, but the concern is they are tinkering around the edges and not facing the crisis head on.”

A total of 200 libraries closed last year with reports of a further 300 facing closure or to become run by volunteers this year. 

Janine Cox, president of the SCL, said today’s announcement was “a response to the challenging times we find ourselves in,” before adding: “We’re aware there are less of us as librarians, and we’re trying to capitalise on strengths that we have.”

The Book Prescription idea was particularly interesting as it could be funded out of health budgets. The scheme’s research and development is funded by Arts Council England to the tune of £19,900 from the Library Development Initiative Fund. The Reading Agency has also applied to the Department of Health for funding the following three years and expects the decision within the fortnight.

GPs will write out a prescription that will give patients immediate membership at the local library, with recommendations for titles rather than letting their patients rely on Google’s search results.

While local libraries have attempted their own schemes in the past, this has been backed by what Ms McKearney called the “big health guns”.

This includes the Department of Health, the Royal College of Psychiatrists and importantly the Royal College of General Practitioners.

The Reading Agency has compiled a list of 30 volumes aimed at those suffering with mental health issues from anger and anxiety to depression and chronic pain.

The body is also updating its list of mood boosting books in time for the start of the scheme, and its current list includes A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon, Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson and The Awkward Age by Roger McGough.

Ms McKearney said: “It will encourage people to use the other reading aspects from libraries to help them feel better: novels, poetry and reading groups.”

The wider vision outlined yesterday’s involves a national backbone of services that libraries across the country will offer. Beyond health, those include help getting people online, community outreach, help claimants of the universal credit and, of course, offer books. The Government and libraries are currently scrutinising the issues around lending of e-books.

Mr Clarke, the library campaigner, questioned how this would be delivered: “The big concern, as well as the closures, is that services have been hollowed out. Opening hours are shorter, and they have got rid of professional librarians for volunteers. There’s a lot of anger out there.

A suggested reading list...

Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee

An account of the author’s formative years growing up in a village in the Cotswolds after the First World War, and an encounter with the young temptress Rosie Burdock.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

When her parents die, a spoilt young girl is sent to live with her uncle. There she discovers an overgrown secret garden that she and her new friends bring back to life.

Trouble on the Heath by Terry Jones

When Malcolm Thomas discovers his view of the heath will be blocked by an ugly building, he decides to take action. Violent gangsters and depressed town planners stand in his way. 

The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford

A dark comedy following the exploits of an eccentric aristocratic family in the inter-war period, and the narrator’s romantic adventures.

Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson

After hearing that millions of Americans believe they had been abducted by aliens, Bryson decides to return to his home country. Before he goes, he documents a farewell tour of the island he loves, and writes a love letter to Britain. 

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Client Manager

    £27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...

    Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

    £16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

    £17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

    £17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Day In a Page

    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'