A new initiative has been launched today at Dewsbury’s Priestley Unit, which is run by South West Yorkshire Mental Health Trust. The Books Make You Better scheme was launched by Batley Library’s bibliotherapist John Duffy. The event included a presentation from John on the work he does on mental health wards as well as with patients once they have been discharged.
John works in libraries, hospitals, day centres, community rooms and people’s own homes, encouraging individuals and groups to read books and talk about them. He provides the Reading And You Scheme (RAYS) along with other sessions at the Priestley unit including ‘Imagine’, which introduces patients to creative writing. Some samples of the writing produced were on display at the event.
John and his colleagues, Jo Haslam of Slaithwaite Library, and Lesley Holl, who is based in Huddersfield, have been promoting reading as a mental wellbeing tool since 2000 and it was hoped that the launch would encourage mental health staff to use the RAYS as a way of enriching the lives of their patients.
John said, "My job is to integrate the library into the community. Reading is something that should be used proactively to help with things like mental health. It takes us out of ourselves, stretches the imagination and engages the emotions. A good read can help us relax, or see different ways of looking at things. We use books and reading to engage with people affected by stress, depression and anxiety; with people who are marginalised or lonely; and with people who love reading but don’t know what to read next."
The Trust’s social inclusion and diversity lead, Aboo Bhana added, "The work John has been doing on our mental health wards has had a huge impact on the wellbeing of patients. He is very popular and his weekly visits are eagerly awaited by everyone who takes part in his sessions."