In the U.K., patients who consult their doctor about mental health issues may be prescribed a book from the library instead of, or in addition to, medication or counseling. The plan, called Books on Prescription, will start in May. Doctor’s prescriptions will give patients immediate membership at the local library, and include recommended titles from a list of 30 compiled by nonprofit The Reading Agency. They include both medical nonfiction and feel-good fiction, according to The Independent.
The plan was announced by The Reading Agency and The Society of Chief Librarians at the British Library on January 31. Its development was funded by the Library Development Initiative Fund of Arts Council, and The Reading Agency applied to the Department of Health for funding the following three years. The plan has been endorsed by the Department of Health, as well as the Royal Colleges of Psychiatrists and General Practitioners.
“There’s growing evidence that shows that self-help reading can help people with certain mental health issues get better,” Miranda McKearney, director of The Reading Agency, said.
According to The Guardian, it is based on a similar program in Wales, led by clinical psychologist Professor Neil Frude, while others are in place in Denmark and New Zealand.
Besides helping individuals feel better, the plan could be good for the health of the U.K.’s ailing library system, particularly if the costs are borne out of health budgets.