Public libraries’ work around mental health issues

This is a round-up of responses to an enquiry posted in March 2015.

Libraries NI

The Libraries NI Health in Mind project brings together Libraries NI as lead partner and four leading mental health charities. By working together and using our expertise, we support people to learn more about mental health and how to look after their wellbeing through reading, learning and information programmes and services. Health in Mind is funded by the Big Lottery Fund, through the Live and Learn Programme.

Please follow the links to some editions of the Health in Mind Newsletter where you will find examples of the work being done in public libraries in Northern Ireland:

Further info from: [email protected]


In Redbridge we run the Read Aloud Reading Group every other Monday at Gants Hill Library. The ethos of the group is based on research uncovering the link between reading and well-being.

“Being read to makes us happier and healthier; it stimulates thought and memory and encourages the sharing of ideas and feelings, hopes and fears. It enriches our lives and minds.”

In the hour’s session, the facilitator comes along with a short story and the group read this aloud, taking turns reading as much or as little as they feel comfortable with. After reading the story we have a short discussion, and then attendees like to share some of their own writing with the group. This is usually poetry but we do have a lady who writes short stories.

It’s a really wonderful group and I have very positive feedback from those attending the session.

A lot of what we read comes from the book A Little, ALOUD edited by Angela Macmillan – further information about using these anthologies is available on The Reader website.

Further info from [email protected]


  • We offer mental health first aid courses via Public Health to staff to support them in front-line delivery.


We have a project in Stoke on Trent called Read and Connect, which in essence involves volunteers facilitating read-aloud groups, based on the Reader Organisation’s Get into Reading model. The project is run by the library service; we recruit the volunteers, organise training, and help to set up and manage the on-going groups.

  • We have groups running throughout the city targeting people who are or who may become isolated, for a variety of reasons including through mental health issues.
  • We have three groups specifically aimed at people with mental health issues; two run by mental health professionals, dealing with more severe cases of mental ill health, and one at a drop in service for people with mild to moderate mental health issues.
  • Beyond that, we have groups open to the public, groups in care homes and day centres, and a group for adults with learning disabilities, that will all involve mental health to some degree.

The aim of the project as a whole is to bring people together, and get people talking through what has been read to them. As a rule the sessions, which run weekly for continuity, help people make new friends and form a support network. Issues of mental health may be discussed directly, or addressed through the wide variety of material that will be read at a group.

Further info from: [email protected]


I think our health offer is about offering some creative ideas and opportunities to improve mental wellbeing.

  • We also have also started an Open Space opportunity in Ipswich County library and it is open to anyone in the community (there is a flyer with info about the scheme, and also a briefing note for staff). I see the way we deal with issues is to be informed and have good working relations with customers and within the mental health community, but also being aware that if someone needs an additional bit of support we know who to turn to and be sensitive to their particular needs.
  • Staff wellbeing is equally important and we have had and plan opportunities for staff to take time out of their normal working day to explore opportunities to improve their stress at work. As an example we had a staff day here at Ipswich County Library where we offered opportunities from stress awareness talks, health walk tasters to Indian head massages, whilst understanding that people’s mental health might be affected by other stressors and indeed maybe a longer-enduring illness, for which our HR team offer appropriate and sensitive support. We are currently looking at planning future events for staff.

Further info from: [email protected]

Tower Hamlets

We’re very interested in particular about the less tangible aspects of mental health – the difference that visiting a shared community space makes to wellbeing. A leaflet about Tower Hamlets Libraries’ mental health provision is available.

Further info from: [email protected]

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