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Ditch pills and dish out books, GPs urged

Irish GPs are being urged to consider "prescribing" self-help books for mentally ill patients instead of handing out pills.

Some 25 councils received a total grant of €16,350 in 2008 and 2009 to stock a select list of self-help books in their libraries -- the average grant being €650.

And this use of books for therapeutic purposes -- known as bibliotherapy -- is now being promoted by the HSE, the National Library Council (NLC) and the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) as a way of conquering mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.

Pearse Finegan, from ICGP, said: "It's a whole change away from prescribing medicine, and it's a way of getting the person to tackle their problem themselves."


Martin Rogan, HSE's national assistant director of Mental Health said bibliotherapy in Ireland started in the north inner city, where a healthy reading week took place in collaboration with a local library.

He said it's estimated that 35pc of a GP's workload deals with mental health issues such as anxiety, stress, bereavement and bipolar disorder, and about 90pc of mental health issues are dealt with in primary care centres. " It's a very discreet way for people to get good quality information."

The National Library Council has trained its staff to help and advise people who come to the library inquiring about books from the bibliotherapy range.

And the list of 30 core books -- which includes titles on dealing with depression, anxiety, bereavement, stress and post natal depression -- will be revised and updated at the end of this year.