Books · Jottings

Jottings #11 Prescription Reading

Research shows that reading improves mental well-being, and reduces stress levels by 67%. (Mindlab International, 2009)

It has been in the news lately that books and reading are being prescribed as a help for those suffering with mental health issues.  From May this year The Reading Agency and libraries are getting together with GP’s and health professionals to recommend self help books which can be picked up and read from your local library. If you wish to find out more then follow this link. Or check out this article from The Telegraph.

I can see it having so many benefits; doctors will no longer have to worry about the finances of prescribing tablets which is costing the NHS money. Perhaps now the books and reading will be the first step before using other therapies are considered or perhaps as I am no medical expert they can all work together nicely. I am only an expert about me and no one else, this is just my take on it all. I take the tablets, and have spent more time on them in the last 18 years than off. Reading is part of me regardless but I know it is also a way that I have of coping with whatever happens to be happening at any one time.

With this comes the perhaps cautious optimism about the future of libraries. Involving libraries in this means they could thrive in a very different way and there will be no need to close them.

This wonderful idea and that of the Mood boosting books that The Reading Agency promote means books are being talked about more and perhaps helping so many people out there.

This got me thinking, about what books I read to look after myself and why do those particular books or authors fulfil a need. As a sufferer of depression, reading has been a great tool in looking after me and forms part of a wellness plan that I have. As has this blog as it allows me to get rid of everything running round my head in some sort of coherent way. Not every post gets published but the cathartic process of writing is certainly a prescription I would recommend. Writing a book review is a way of consolidating it all into a readable (I hope) output.

I have little knowledge of self help books, I have had the odd one or two in the past but it has been more as information for something else that an actually as a book of choice. So to start my list of books of “mood boosting” or “related mental health” (I need to find a better way of phrasing that)

  • Linda Gillard – Emotional Geology which deals with mental health within its storyline.
  • Patrick Gale – Notes from an Exhibition a book which first started me thinking about books which cover mental illness.
  • Any Maureen Lee book – I have read them all from about the age of 16 (I think?!) and they always have a happy and satisfactory ending which sometimes life does not provide us all with.
  • Alexander McCall Smith – The No 1. Ladies Detective Agency. Something about these gentle stories, with the heat of Botswana, the wonderful characters, the colour of the place all brought vividly to life, without the need for excessive violence, language or sex.
  • ?

So that is four so far, I am sure there is more in fact I know there is and I need to reflect on it. I am also surer that there are books out there that I have yet to read that have a soothing capacity about them even if the topic covered or genre might not lend itself to such. Please feel free to suggest some or let me know yours.

4 thoughts on “Jottings #11 Prescription Reading

  1. McCall Smith does it for me too, though in my case it is the Scotland Street series rather than the Botswana books that are most effective at boosting my mood. The Scotland Street books also include one of my literary crushes – a topic being discussed today on Cornflower Books blog. I shall aim to avoid commenting on that one since I have a sneaking suspicion that, whilst it might be acceptable for grown women to admit to falling for characters in books, it is probably not something that adult men are supposed to admit to. Let me make one thing perfectly clear, though, I absolutely do not have a crush on the awful – though highly amusing – Irene Pollock!

    1. I agree – Alexander McCall Smith is always a tonic and a mood-booster! As to your suspicion, David, I’ll address it across the way ….
      Seriously though, books do have the power to comfort, to lift the spirits, to restore hope, to distract and to absorb, and I hope that in writing and commenting as we do on blogs and elsewhere we are helping readers find what they need.

  2. At one of the lowest points in my life, around 9/11, when something very terrible happened to a friend and I was myself suffering badly with depression, I despaired and really hit a wall. And then I turned to Shakespeare. In particular HAMLET. I found all my issues – grief, despair, depression, anger, fear, loneliness, life, death & the universe – they all seemed to crop up in this play and I found words of comfort. I think that was when I realised that the great bulwark against despair is Art.

    And that’s why I write and that’s why I read, because to do so is to spit in the eye of Fate.

  3. I have recently been doing some research in my local library and had noticed signs for this scheme but wasn’t entirely sure what it was all about. Thank you for clearing that up for me 🙂
    I have an anxiety disorder and I would say reading really is the most relaxing thing to do. I’m not really a fan of self help books but I think any type of reading is beneficial to people. My change recently has been to allow myself freedom to be reading more than one book at a time, which means I can flexible about my reading depending on my mood. This has meant I’m reading more and feeling more relaxed than before. Not sure reading will ever mean I can give up on my medication though, I think I need a balance of both.

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