Tag Archives: Books on Prescription

Mental Health Awareness Week – Surviving or Thriving?

mhaw17-main-banner_0Read, learn and connect with us during this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week –

Libraries’ positive contribution to the mental well-being of the population is well documented – see the Arts Council’s publication on ‘The health and wellbeing benefits of public libraries.’ 

I say population and not just customers or residents as it has been said that living near a library and, indeed, just walking past a library has a positive effect on one’s emotional and mental well-being.

Of course we in libraries are keen to invite people to come through the doors and experience the well-being benefits first hand. The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is ‘Surviving or Thriving’ which encourages us to look at our physical and mental well-being.


Some of our offers are more obviously health focused, our health information displays encourage us to feed our brains with the right food and suggest ways to be more active, as well as giving information on managing and living well with chronic conditions.  Poor physical health can be a drain on our mental and emotional strength and poor mental health can lead to inactivity, poor diet and so the cycle continues.

One way to break cycles of unhelpful thoughts and behaviours is cognitive behavioural therapy and Westminster has a free psychological therapy service, Westminster Talking Therapies.

In order to help people decide whether this service is for them or for support while waiting for a referral, or during, or after therapy, the libraries’ Reading Well Books on Prescription collections are recommended by GPs and health promotion specialists. A new collection put together to support those living with chronic conditions will be launched in July this year.

The Reading Well Books on Prescription initiative is part of our Bibliotherapy offer. Our libraries host read aloud groups in partnership with The Reader Organisation. These facilitator led ‘Share a book’ groups meet every week and give members the opportunity to join in reading aloud from good literature and discuss what has been read over a cup of tea or coffee or just sit back, listen and enjoy the company.

lavenderIt is encouraging to look at how we in libraries contribute to what is called ‘the wider determinants of health’  All the things in our lives that support us, family, work, employment, housing, finances, education, lifelong learning, English classes, coffee mornings, knitting groups, activities for children and teenagers, employment advice, business information points for entrepreneurs old and young, all these available in libraries.

Libraries have always been inspirational and aspirational encouraging us to ask for more learning and knowledge and skills to create meaningful lives for ourselves and our families.

There are also some very good enjoyable fiction books available free to borrow hard copy or online! See our new book displays or log on to the 24/7 library. Did you know that reading for as little as six minutes can improve mental well-being?

See what you can do this Mental Health Awareness week to look after your own mental well-being, eat well, sleep well, go for a walk in one of our gorgeous parks and yes, visit your local library.

Kate Gielgud

Health Information Co-ordinator






Shelf help for teens

Fighting invisible tigers by Earl HippDuring the month of April people across London have been reading the same book about riot and civil unrest as part of Cityread London. The story, called Ten Days by Gillian Slovo, is based on events when bad stuff happened, someone died and people just boiled over – they couldn’t take any more.

Sometimes life gets confusing and that’s when people through the ages have turned to books. Writing them, reading them – Shakespeare had a lot to get out of his system, and he did it so well that we remember him 400 years later!

Here in libraries we’ve a got a brand new collection of books for young people between the ages of 13 and 18. The collection – called Shelf Help – was launched last week and they’re already flying off the shelves.

Shelf Help - Reading Well for Young People books

There are books about depression, anxiety, eating disorders, self harm, living with autism and more. They are really helpful and some are funny too – you’ve got to see the funny side sometimes. Some of the books are a bit like guides or reference books and some are fiction but based on real people and real lives. They’ve been chosen by young people with experience of mental health issues, and you can find them in your local library, browse the collection online or even have them recommended to you by your doctor.

No one can read minds, and teen life is full of tricky times, that’s why Shelf Help is there for you in libraries now.


We can help

Did you know that using a public library is good for your mental health?

Books on Prescription at Victoria LibraryRecent research done for Arts Council England found that

“Library usage is associated with higher life satisfaction, higher happiness and a higher sense of purpose in life… These results suggest that libraries generally have an important role in library users’ quality of life and wellbeing.”

– The health and wellbeing benefits of public libraries, 2015

Today is World Mental Health Day so we’re taking the opportunity to talk about some of the support that Westminster Libraries can offer to maintain and improve your and your family’s mental health.

If you visit your local library today, you are likely to see a display entitledBooks on Prescription – a selection of self-help books put together by health professionals that give guidance on managing and, in some cases, recovering from mild to moderate mental wellbeing issues. These books are available for a longer-than-usual loan period, and figures released today suggest that it’s a positive and useful resource (Book-based therapy scheme is a success) – so successful in fact that Korean TV visited Victoria Library this week to talk to the Reading Agency and our very own librarian Nick about taking Books on Prescription to Korea!

You can browse the selection for yourself on the library catalogue:

Browse the 'Books on Prescription' selection

Browse the ‘Books on Prescription’ selection

From the same page you can also browse a great selection of Mood Boosting Books – uplifting titles including novels, poetry and non-fiction. The books are recommended by readers and reading groups around the country.

Browse the selection of Mood Boosting Books

Browse the selection of Mood Boosting Books

You are probably aware of the wide range of health-related events that are held regularly in Westminster Libraries – from free blood pressure checks to Q & A sessions about different conditions, from advice on healthy eating to fun dental health sessions for children. But as the report at the top of the post indicates, it’s not just attending health-related events that can have an impact on your mental health. Attending any library events (and we have a LOT!) can improve feelings of wellbeing. In fact, there is also evidence that improved literacy is linked to good health, so the Health Information Project is working closely with children’s Chatterbooks reading groups and other groups within libraries to support reading as a whole.

Have you heard about the Shared Reading Groups? We have a wide range of reading groups that you can join, from the traditional ‘read a book a month and discuss it’ style to groups focusing on comics or crime fiction. Shared reading groups have a slightly different style – there’s no set book, you don’t need to read it before you attend – just come along and listen to others read aloud, discuss (if you want) and enjoy the books (poetry, plays, novels), the company and the free tea and coffee!

We can help. Libraries are a great source of information, enjoyment, social interaction or space just to read and learn. Come in and spend some time, join in with an event or group, find a great book to read for escape or to find support with the stresses of life. These links may also help:


Reading Well in Westminster

Reading Well logoFollowing the Reading Agency launch of the Reading Well Books on Prescription Dementia Collection on Monday 26 January, libraries across the three boroughs gave community and health partners, as well as members of the public, the chance to find out about our Reading Well initiatives, with collection launches at five libraries, starting with Pimlico Library on 30 January.

The Carers’ Network, BME Forum, Migrants Resource Centre, Breathe Easy Support group, and other community and health partners came to Pimlico library for tea and scones to hear about Reading Well in libraries.

Diane Sherlock at the Pimlico Library launch of Reading Well Books on Prescription - Dementia Collection

Diane Sherlock at the Pimlico Library launch of Reading Well Books on Prescription – Dementia Collection

They also listened to a poetry reading by Diane Sherlock, author of ‘Come into the Garden’ – a collection of poems written when caring for her mother who was living with vascular dementia after a stroke. Copies of ‘Come into the Garden’ are available in all libraries in the three boroughs and are being used in our ‘read aloud’ bibliotherapy groups.

Remembering Together artefacts at Paddington LibraryKathryn Gilfoy, from Westminster Arts, brought the display of artefacts created by artists and individuals living with Dementia – as shown in our recent ‘Remembering Together’ post.

There followed launches at North Kensington and Brompton libraries (read more on the RBKC Libraries blog) and at Hammersmith and Fulham libraries (read more on LBHF Libraries). Five different launches in different libraries in the three boroughs, only made possible by joint working with library staff and health and community partners.

Very warm thanks to Sara, Ronnie and Luigi at Pimlico and all colleagues!  Thanks to Diane Sherlock and Nell Dunn who donated their time and to Kathryn and Freya from Westminster Arts. Thanks to the Stroke Association who donate their time and resources to help prevent vascular dementia by preventing stroke.

Libraries are doing their bit for Dementia.  If you would like to join the Dementia Alliance, contact Helen.ODonovan@alzheimers.org.uk.


The beating heart of your community (Why libraries are good for your health, part 3)

There has been a packed programme of health events happening in Westminster Libraries over the past month – alongside regular events there were quite a few topical events to tie in with various awareness weeks.

Living Well with Dementia: The Westminster Guide 201319-26 May was the 2013 Dementia Awareness Week and Paddington Library hosted a very well-attended talk from the Kensington, Chelsea and Westminster Memory Service on ‘Understanding Dementia’. There is sometimes confusion as to the difference between ‘dementia’ and ‘Alzheimer’s’ and people can hurl either at anyone who seems a bit forgetful. Dementia in all its forms seems to be on the increase and it is worthwhile getting hold of a copy of the ‘Living Well with Dementia’ guide (a new version for 2013) which has been painstakingly put together by Jasmine Scott, Dementia Advisor

Health information, craft and free massage at Paddington Library, June 2013

Paddington Library hosts very successful and increasingly popular community health events on the last Thursday of each month. May’s event offered information on drug and alcohol services from the NHS Health Improvement Team as well as free tea, coffee, massage sessions and a lively craft session. June featured the Stroke Association taking people’s blood pressure, the NHS Health Improvement Team discussing healthy eating and nine Time Bank volunteers holding a craft event next to the free massage sessions. Tea and coffee were donated to the public by a private donor, and more than 50 people took part.

Aderonke Kuti with diabetes information at Queen's Park Library, June 2013Even the weekends have their share of health events in Westminster. Queen’s Park Library was the venue recently for a very fruitful and lively partnership between Family Learning and the Health Information Project in the form of the Black and Ethnic Minority diabetes charity BEMDA. Aderonke Kuti brought information and resources to explain the differences between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes to the families who had signed up with the brilliant Micki Garvey for her recycled toys and stories session. It seemed to work so well because the whole family were involved. The idea is that older children can become Diabetes Champions and spread the word among their fellows.

For Carers Week 2013 (10-16 June) there was another health event at Queen’s Park Library – the bunting was up, the balloons were outside the library for a Carers Information event. The Westminster Carers Network teamed up with the Falls Prevention Service (Carers Week was immediately followed by Falls Awareness Week!) to make information available to the large number of carers in the Queen’s Park area. Charities Diabetes UK and Prostate Cancer UK also had stands and the whole event was well attended.

Last week saw a Well Wednesday Diabetes awareness event at Church Street Library, run by the NHS health improvement team and a dynamic volunteer from Diabetes UK

Pre-Ramadan diabetes advice at Church Street Library, June 2013The ladies offered healthy eating tips and lots of information on preventing type two diabetes and/or living with Diabetes, type 1 and type 2. The session was held as the second of a two-part pre-Ramadan special at Church Street Library. Ramadan is when Muslims fast for a lunar month – no food or water passes their lips during daylight hours. Sometimes this can lead to some very unhealthy gorging during the night time period; thinking they are stocking up, people overload their bodies with carbohydrate and risk developing type 2 diabetes. 

Josefine the ‘volunteer’ Jack Russell, is due at the Westbourne Dementia hub for a demonstration of her ‘shaking hands’, ‘lying down’ and her new talent ‘dancing’ (though only backwards) – she will promote library services and has a special volunteer badge… pictures to follow.

Can anyone doubt that libraries are good for your health in a very obvious way?  Coming soon ‘the hidden therapeutic value of your library’!


Reading Well: Books on Prescription

Reading Well: Books on PrescriptionThe Westminster Libraries launch of the Reading Agency ‘Books on Prescription’ scheme took place at Church Street Library yesterday,  cheered on its way with blue sky, sunshine and matching yellow and blue helium balloons!

Books on Prescription launched nationally yesterday evening. It is part of the Reading Agency Reading Well offer made to libraries in partnership with Society of Chief Librarians and Department of Health.

Sylwia and Vivienne at the Books on Prescription launch, Church Street Library, June 2013The launch was attended by over fourteen health partner and community organisations. The majority had information stalls in the Church Street Library community space; the NHS health Improvement team and the IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) teams welcomed visitors on the ground floor and directed them to the free massage sessions, information stalls and sandwiches and fruit kebabs.

Rachel at the Books on Prescription launch, Church Street Library June 2013The event was attended by representatives of Patient Participation groups, Councillor Louise Hyams, Councillor Barbara Grahame, Chris Lloyd (Community Development Manager Triborough Libraries) and Anna Waterman, the Public Health manager responsible for commissioning the Health Information Project in Westminster Libraries. Vic Stewart, manager of Church Street Library, introduced the speakers.

Rachel Barratt, our Bookstart Co-ordinator, shared a stall with the Kickstart team (early years nutrition and development) and Danielle from Open Age and Rachel from the Penfold Hub brought along information for over 50s.

Baffour from Mind and Chris from Triborough Libraries at the Books on Prescription launch in Church Street Library, June 2013Mind had a card making stall – see representative Baffour with Chris in front of the BOP display in the foyer of Church Street Library. There were representatives of the BME forum, Migrant’s Resource Centre, Mosaic Trust, the Kensington, Chelsea and Westminster memory Service, the Wellbeing Service, CLCH Foundation Trust, Carer’s Network, West London Community Mental Health Team, Westminster Drugs Project, Early Intervention Psychosis Team, Paddington Development Trust…

The event could not have gone so well without the help of four volunteers, very appropriate in this week!  Elizabeth, Paola and Hafida are members of the Queen’s Park, Paddington and Church Street Book Groups and they were joined by Iman who has helped at several health information events in the past.

Paola at the Books on Prescription launch, Church Street Library, June 2013Huge thanks go to the staff at Church Street Library, especially to Alison the librarian, who made the idea for the display into a reality!

Books on Prescription is just one part of how libraries can contribute to Public Health – we also have regular health events and lots of information.

There are launch events in our partner boroughs today and next week: the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’s launch is this afternoon (5 June) at Brompton Library, from 2.00-4.00pm; the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham launch is at Shepherds Bush Library on 12 June, 12.30-2.30pm.


Why Libraries are Good for your Health!

This spring, libraries have proved that they are good for your health in a number of ways. Here are just a few:

The Reader, by Bernard SchlinkApril was Bowel Cancer Awareness Month – not something anyone really wants to dwell on if they are honest! We would much rather think about health in terms of ‘wellbeing’, with mental pictures of self and loved ones power walking in the park – sparkling eyes, glowing skin, full of vitality. That is actually a good place to start and events at Marylebone, Charing Cross and Maida Vale libraries during the month encouraged us to get it  right with advice on the basics of healthy eating and exercise for good digestion – which is of course a step in the right direction for preventing bowel cancer.

Another positive thought around this very common cancer is that, if caught early, the recovery rates are good. With this in mind, Dave from Bowel Cancer UK came along to Church Street Library for the monthly ‘Well Wednesday’ slot to inform us on the signs and signals of the disease and the importance of getting them checked out.

The Stroke Association came along to Pimlico Library and gave 28 people free blood pressure checks; psychotherapists and members of the Wellbeing team based in Vauxhall Bridge Road also visited Pimlico and told us about their free six week courses on relaxation, sleep and dealing with anxiety. This brings to mind Books on Prescription – but more about that in a moment.

Speaking to a Public Health Manager last week he informed me that there is evidence that reading is good for your health. Among other things, reading to children and taking them to libraries as toddlers has an impact on a child’s readiness for school and their reading level at age 11.  This has a knock-on effect on people’s socio-economic status as adults – which is closely linked to health.

Cityread London - get involvedWe have been doing as much sharing of books as possible recently. It wasn’t hard –  due to Cityread London we were able to give copies of A Week in December by Sebastian Faulks to health partners who seemed genuinely pleased with their gifts. World Book Night was another occasion to give away books – we had events at Paddington and Westminster Reference libraries to do just that. Copies of The Reader by Bernard Schlink were donated to members of the public as well as NHS staff and members of bibliotherapy reading groups. “Is it free?” I was asked – “YES!”  I replied.

This brings me to the very exciting upcoming nationwide relaunch of the Books on Prescription sets.  These have been available in libraries for some time but the NHS, the Reading Agency and local authorities have been putting their heads together to revitalise this great initiative.

Reading Well: Books on Prescription‘Books on Prescription’ in its new form is a set of 30 books. Most are Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) workbooks and they can be ‘prescribed’ by a health professional or counsellor to help individuals manage their emotional and mental health. They will be available very soon from all Triborough libraries.  These books are marked with a Books on Prescription sticker and can be found in the ‘Body’ section.  They have a loan period of six rather than three weeks and can, of course, be renewed.

We will have an official launch of the scheme at Church Street Library on Tuesday 4 June. Look out too for the Kensington and Chelsea launch at Brompton Library and the Hammersmith & Fulham launch at Shepherd’s Bush Library.

I’m itching to tell you about Mood Boosting Books… however, I will leave that for the next instalment of ‘Why Libraries are Good for your Health’.