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New Mental Health Treatment: Books!


I so often read a news item that makes me go “oh good Lord….what? How can…? No.” that it’s a real treat to read something that makes sense. This article I read in The Guardian is one of the rare gems that does.

Apparently, patients in the UK who are suffering from non-severe mental health issues, such as anxiety and mild depression, will be getting a new prescription from their medical practitioners – for books. It’s called The Reading Well: Books on Prescription scheme.

Doctors will be sending patients to the library (that’s much cheaper than a pill, no?) with a prescription for one or more of 30 titles such as The Feeling Good Handbook, How to Stop Worrying and Overcoming Anger and Irritability.

There is a related program that suggests patients read positive “mood boosting books“, such as Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden and Cider with Rosie, to help combat depression, and feelings of negativity or hopelessness (we’d also like to humbly offer up our list of Feel-Good Reads for good happy books).

All this is brought about by The Reading Agency, a charity located in London, whose credo is Because everything changes when we read.

I’m inclined to heartily agree. Nobody seems to be suggesting that the books – whether the self help “prescribed” books, or the mood-boosting selections – are a replacement for drug therapy, talk therapy or other more conventional treatments.

In more serious cases, or if the patients find no relief or comfort in the readings, those options can be next steps. But with sky-high numbers of people suffering from mild to moderate mental health concerns, this is a reasonable, easy, and cheap to free first step toward feeling better and keeping one’s head afloat.

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Beth Carswell

About Beth Carswell

I've been reading, selling, researching, loving and writing about books with AbeBooks since 2000.

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