Newspapers are reporting that doctors in the United Kingdom will be prescribing self-help and health books as reading material for those suffering from a variety of mild-to-moderate mental ailments, such as mild depression, anxiety and panic attacks. The CEO of the British charity the Reading Agency, Miranda McKearney, explained in an article in The Guardian, “There is a growing evidence base that shows that self-help reading can help people with certain mental health conditions to get better.”
Wales has already started the recommended reading program, with England scheduled to start in a few months. Denmark’s doctors have also engaged in this type of therapeutic reading prescriptions. The books can be obtained through libraries, limiting costs, and titles on the reading list have professional endorsements that match up each book with a specific concern, as well as verify their therapeutic value.
When I was in high school, I had a friend who others believed was troubled, but I noticed that she seemed to plow on in circumstances that would have stymied me. Once, we happened to be discussing psychotherapy. She told me she didn’t need to see a shrink. “Books are my therapists,” she told me.
Her words rung true with me then and now. For someone with a serious mental health concern, the attentions of a skilled therapist are crucial (and sometimes life-saving). But for those with milder issues, or those with limited access to psychological counselling (due to location, financial pressures, or denial, for example), reading of other people in the same boat as them, as well as discovering concrete steps they can take to improve their troubles, can be a remarkable gift. Even those who do see a therapist will often benefit from reading books about the methods the therapist plans to use.