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Libraries Unlimited marks World Mental Health Day as loans of Reading Well titles soar across Devon

By October 13, 2016January 26th, 2021Member News & Updates

Since April this year, more than 6,500 people have borrowed mental health and wellbeing titles from libraries across Devon, including 2,500 young people, Libraries Unlimited has revealed.


The news comes as Libraries Unlimited, the social enterprise responsible for the running of Devon’s Libraries, marks World Mental Health Day (10 October), with the launch of 200 special talks, workshops and events focused on mental health and wellbeing during November.


The popular Reading Well Books on Prescription scheme, part of the Public Libraries Universal Health Offer in support of mental health and wellbeing, has been hailed a huge success, with loans of the latest list for young people up by 263%. In Devon, the Reading Well series for young people overtook the success of the other ranges, with 2,500 loans in just six months, taking the total for Reading Well book loans to more than 8,000.


To continue the activities and promote positive mental health and wellbeing across the county, Libraries Unlimited will be hosting a range of events and workshops as part of its Active Life Active Mind campaign.


Workshops at Exeter Library’s Fab Lab, business events in the Business and Intellectual Property Centre (BIPC), colouring in for adults and knit and natter are just a few of the events on offer. Libraries taking part in the Active Life Active Mind campaign include Buckfastleigh and Budleigh Salterton, Combe Martin, Tavistock and Uffculme to St Thomas.


2016 marks the fifth annual programme of Active Life Active Mind events in Devon and this year the programme also showcases an exciting partnership between the University of Exeter and Libraries Unlimited.


Funded by the Wellcome Trust and the University of Exeter, members of the Centre for Medical History are researching the links between lifestyle, health and disease in the past and present, focusing particularly on how the concept of ‘balance’ shapes our health and well-being. The research team is keen to engage widely with the public to help develop and evaluate effective health policies.


Ciara Eastell, Chief of Libraries Unlimited said: “As with the previous four years, we have an excellent range of events across the county this year, including everything from walking for health, dementia friendly cinema, hula hooping, board games, quiz nights and art clubs. Active Life Active Mind is for anyone of any age, and focuses on how keeping fit, being social and active can have a positive impact on mental health and well-being.


She continued: “World Mental Health Day is a timely reminder of the need to look after ourselves and those within our communities both physically and mentally. The Reading Well Books on Prescription scheme has been a huge success in Devon. We have seen more loans this year than ever before, and a particularly high number of loans from young people. It’s refreshing to see that people are seeking help and support through this scheme, but highlights just how important it is for us to do more to raise awareness of it and the advice and support on offer.”


Statistics show that 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem in any one year but mental health services are overstretched and have long waiting times. Launched in 2013 and developed by The Reading Agency, the Society of Chief Librarians and the Association of Senior Children’s and Education Librarians, Reading Well Books on Prescription aims to provide local communities with support to understand and manage their mental health and well-being.


Health professionals, such as GPs or school nurses, can refer people to the booklist, or the titles are available for anyone to borrow for free from their local library. In the 2015 evaluation of the programme, 85% of those who had borrowed a title from the adult mental health list said the book had made them feel more confident about managing their symptoms.


Reading Well for young people is the most recent list in the scheme and is available at libraries across Devon. It includes 35 titles and provides 13 to 18 year-olds with information on common mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety and stress, as well as difficult experiences like bullying and exams.  This year libraries have seen a surge in loans of these books, with national figures provided by PLR of a 263% increase in loans since the list was launched in April 2016.


SCL President Neil MacInnes said: “We are very proud of the work that public libraries do in helping people who suffer from anxiety, depression and isolation. Library staff play a crucial role in the health and well-being of local communities, and are a lifeline for customers who need information and support.”


Debbie Hicks, Creative Director at The Reading Agency, said: “World Mental Health Day is an important opportunity to raise awareness of the vital role of libraries as community health hubs providing health and well-being support for people of all ages. We are delighted that Reading Well for young people titles are flying off library shelves demonstrating the huge value and reach of libraries’ health work.”


To find out about the Active Life Active Mind events, visit your local library, or the Devon Libraries website, follow @DevonLibraries on Twitter, or find us on Facebook. 


For more information about Libraries Unlimited, please visit or follow @LibrariesUnLtd or like on Facebook/LibrariesUnlimited