Your local library is a wealth of knowledge on mental health

All pictures in this blog post taken at various libraries within the Borough of Enfield

I mentioned on our twitter page for the blog that I sincerely appreciated the information about Mind and Childline at the end of each book in Jo Cotterill's Hopewell High series. It's a collection of books that deal with the subject of mental illness in teenagers. We ended up having quite a nice conversation about how important it is that people are given information like this, so thy know help is available whenever needed.

I commended Jo Cotterill and Bloomsbury Education for coming together to create a piece of writing that I wish had been around when I was a teenager, but in all honesty as a teenager I was never at my local library. Working in libraries for the past few years has given me a renewed perspective on how much you can actually find if you visit, from the knowledge of the staff, to the kinds of people you meet, the kinds of events being put on, and of course the books themselves.

This year's mental health awareness month sported the slogan: Surviving or Thriving?
It's very easy to become defeated when taking steps to improve your own mental health, especially when you've fallen into a safe, comfortable, half-dead routine. I'm currently working on a bunch of content encouraging all of us, myself included, to make the switch from surviving into thriving despite how difficult it may be. So this post is my first piece of advice on how to make the change.

So what's so great about going to the library, you ask? Surely you can just Google what you need to know? Well, let's look at the process.

You get yourself out of bed on a day where you were planning to do nothing, for example. Maybe you're not sure where your local library is, or you haven't been there in years so you do a quick search to find out the address and opening times. You shower, get dressed, have something to eat and make your way there. From the second you got yourself out of bed you began to wake your body up, get your blood pumping, and started to work towards your goal. Getting out of bed the first time is what gives us the motivation to keep doing so and to do a little bit more each time. You can walk to the library the next time instead of getting the bus, perhaps? Baby steps or strides, whatever is comfortable, but either way you're moving forward.

So now you're at the library and you want to do some learning on the subject of Mental Health. What do you do? Where do you start? 

Learn your Dewey numbers!

 Most public libraries in the UK tend to order their non-fiction in accordance with the Dewey Decimal system, so if you know the Dewey numbers that correlate to the subject you're interested in that gives you a pretty clear starting point. If you were looking for some information on your rights in the workplace, for example, knowing that mental health law comes under 344 gives you a clear point from which to start.

If you're looking to learn more about mental health, different types of mental illnesses, therapies, and other kinds of treatments then 616.8 is where you should be looking. However, if you're for interested in self-help techniques you will have much more luck in 158.1. This encompasses things like Mindfulness and other modern philosophies on the best way to live a more mentally healthy life.
If there is something you're looking for that you don't feel comfortable asking for there is often an online catalog you can search through, and some libraries have computers in-house that allow you to search the catalog as well.

Also, don't be afraid to consider fiction as well as non-fiction. There are often times we go through things that we aren't able to articulate, and then you see words on a page somewhere describing exactly how you feel and suddenly you have a point from which you can move. Some libraries may also have designated markers or spaces for LGBTQ+ books, for example, that may better resonate with you if you're part of that community or give you a perspective you were looking for if you aren't. It's worth knowing and understanding how your library categorizes its books, to make searching so much easier on your end.


Libraries often have notices up around the building advertising things that may help in your quest for knowledge.
  • Local classes or taster sessions to broaden your horizons and change up your routine
  • Group therapy sessions and support groups for
  • Adverts for charitable organizations with a focus on mental health
  • Pro-mental health initiatives both general and specialized
  • A list of local events for groups you may fit into (e.g; groups for women, people of colour, LGBTQ+, people with disabilities, parents, etc.)
Even if you don't have the time to sit and read or use the computers, just taking a couple of minutes to pass by and have a browse through leaflets or notices might help you out with your learning, or at least let you know about a couple of good plays on at your local theatre.

Also look out for what kinds of books are on display. The above is a display about mental health issues for teens and young adults, as part of the Shelf Help Scheme created by the reading agency. At their core, local public libraries are meant to provide a safe environment for expanding one's mind. No matter your race, age, creed, ability, or gender a local library should represent a welcoming centre of knowledge. There are often displays for things like LGBTQ+ history month, Black History month, or even more general topics like mental health or health and wellness.
My final point is this: if you don't see the activities you'd like to see available at your local library I implore you to create them yourselves! Speak to the staff, see if they have a room for hire and what the availability is, or if you can put up your own leaflet on the noticeboard for a project you're thinking of starting to see if you can drum up some interest. There's a lot of beauty in finding a space that gives you tools to learn, and using those tools to in turn teach others.

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