Take it as read that a book can ease depression

Your local library now has a self-help section to help with anxiety and depression, writes Ailin Quinlan.

THE problem about sourcing health information on the internet — as any GP will tell you — is reliability. Now, a successful mental health programme, backed by the Health Services Executive and the library network, is being rolled out across Cork.

The Your Good Self programme, which will be launched by Minister of State for Primary Care, Mental Health and Disability, Kathleen Lynch, this Friday — World Mental Health Day — focuses on everything from depression to bereavement, self-esteem to parenting.

Books, CDs and websites containing information on mental health are being made available to the public in all city libraries and in several county ones.

All the material has been reviewed, and recommended, by HSE psychologists and health professionals.

The bibliotherapy programme has been piloted in Mallow since 2011, and in Bandon since 2013 — it’s a superb collection of material, on issues such as dementia and the parenting of teenagers.

“The idea is to get the message out to people that it’s important to look after your emotional well-being in the same way as we look after our physical health,” says Dr Rosarie Crowley, clinical psychologist with the HSE.

“We have put together a collection of recommended resources on everything from anger, stress and parenting to anxiety in children, self-esteem and assertiveness, and we are rolling the programme out across Cork City and county, in collaboration with the Cork City and County Library and Arts Service”.

From Friday, the Your Good Self collection, which is free to library members, will be available at all city libraries and at seven county ones — Mallow, Bandon, Mitchelstown, Ballincollig, Youghal, Skibbereen and Bantry.

Booklists will be available at all libraries, so anyone who is a member of a library that doesn’t stock the collection can easily access the material through the library request system.

“If you’re in Castletownbere, you can request material to be sent from Skibbereen or Bantry, ” says bibliographic services librarian, Christina O’Sullivan.

Your Good Self titles aimed at older adults will be available through the mobile library service.

“Once the programme is launched, brochures and information on the collection will be available in all branches and on our website,” O’Sullivan says.

The pilot programmes in Mallow and Bandon have been successful, says Bernie Wallace, divisional librarian in North Cork, who oversaw the implementation of the scheme in Mallow, in conjunction with O’Sullivan and local librarian, Grace Hooley. “The reaction from the public was quietly appreciative,” Wallace says, pointing out that, to date, around 1,120 titles have been borrowed from the Mallow branch and 387 from Bandon library.

“The numbers are very healthy and show strong public interest. Anecdotally speaking, there are always people milling around the stand during the day.

“It’s good material, which has been reviewed by people in the profession, which gives it an added appeal and strength of purpose,” she says, adding that a series of talks by representatives of the HSE psychology service will take place throughout the region in October.

The basis of the initiative is backed up by strong research — according to the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE), in the UK, self-help material can be a useful start in treating mild to moderate difficulties, such as depression and anxiety, while a 2012 study found that bibliotherapy programmes alleviated depressive symptoms and thoughts in young adults experiencing mild depression.

It certainly helped *Margaret, a self-employed mother-of-two in her 30s.

After suffering depression for much of her life —she didn’t know she had it because she didn’t recognize the symptoms — the Co Cork woman was diagnosed by a perceptive GP, who put her on anti-depressants and sent her for counselling.

“I was constantly crying, I wasn’t sleeping, I had broken nights where I was awake for two or three hours and my mind would be racing,” Margaret says.

Her psychologist recommended a number of books through the Your Good Health collection.

“Initially, I read Matthew Johnston’s Black Dog books on depression. When I read the first one, it was like the weight of the world dropped off my shoulders.

“I realised I wasn’t going mad. The relief of knowing other people had this condition was immense.

“The doctor and the psychologist were great, but these books gave me a real insight into how the condition affects you.

“I realised loads of people suffered from depression, and all the time I thought I was alone.”

*Details changed to protect identity



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