PATIENTS suffering anxiety, depression or relationship problems will be offered books on prescription from GPs to help improve their mood.
They will be given written instructions to take to a local library to pick up a selection from 30 approved texts.
The self-help books include 'Overcoming Relationship Problems' by Michael Crowe, 'The Feeling Good Handbook' by David Burns, and 'Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway' by Susan Jeffers, which is claimed to combat anxiety and is mentioned in the novel Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason.
The initiative, financed by nearly £20,000 from the Arts Council, will result in every public library carrying the list of texts, each designated for problems ranging from anger to worry.
Other areas covered include disturbed sleep, social phobias and eating disorders. Each book has been assessed as "effective" in helping combat mental health problems, and the scheme is backed by the Royal College of GPs and the UK Department of Health. "There is a growing evidence base that shows self-help books can actually help," said Miranda McKearney, director of the Reading Agency, the charity that came up with the idea.
Debbie Hicks, its director of research, said that doctors would be advised to direct patients to the reading list during a "watchful waiting period", before it was clear that they need medical treatment. All 30 books will be in libraries from May, and will also be available for general loan.
Patients with "mild to moderate mental health conditions" will also be encouraged to join reading groups.
The charity has also published a second list, this time of "mood-boosting books" – novels, poems and short stories it believes are most likely to cheer people up. (© Daily Telegraph, London)