LIbraries provide vital information - and refuge - for people facing mental health challenges

Mental health difficulties affect, or will affect, a major share of the population. While they may not be visible to the eye, their effects can be devastating. In order to promote wellbeing for all, societies need to support those suffering from mental health difficulties.


Libraries have their part to play. It is clear, in the case of physical health, that access to information is essential both in preventing illness – by helping people make better choices about how they live – but also by driving forwards medical innovation.


In the case of mental health, libraries provide a safe, secure place where people of all ages can seek calm and time to reflect. Research in the UK earlier this year highlighted the risk that library cuts pose to the mental wellbeing of young people.


They give access to collections which provide explanations, examples and reassurance. Increasingly, doctors are prescribing not medicines, but books as a means of helping people to overcome their situation. The Shelf Help initiative run by the UK’s Reading Agency has seen loans of relevant books quadruple in just a year.


Librarians themselves can provide vital advice and support to users, as set out in research by the Brookings Institute in March, with specific training starting to be offered in the United States. They are also hosting services especially tailored to the needs of people with mental health difficulties, for example in San Francisco where a dedicated staff member responds to the needs of homeless users, and in London, Canada, where a drop-in mental health information centre has been over-subscribed.


With a mission to support all community members through access to information, libraries are proud to do their bit to help all who need it.


For more information, see the work of the section on Libraries Services to People with Special Needs.