Bibliotherapy: Doctors Prescribe Books For Depression
For those of us who have been around LitReactor for a while, the idea that writing can help with depression and other mental illnesses isn't news. We've covered the topic several times, and have seen more than a few stories in our forums of members dealing with their depression through their work. It's always inspiring to explore new ways of fighting through this disorder, especially considering that over 350 million people worldwide suffer from the condition, and less then half of them have access to medication or therapy.
Of course, therapy and even modern antidepressant medication can take a while to have a noticeable effect; even medication can take up to a year to work. It's not surprising, then, that many depressed patients spend the meantime reading up on the condition in self-help books. English psychiatrist Dr. Neil Frude noticed that some books seemed to actually do good things for his patients, and now, the UK's National Health Service is permitting doctors to prescribe self-help books for mild to moderate depression. It's called bibliotherapy, and since the treatment is in literature form, it can be obtained for free at a local library.
If your primary care physician diagnoses you with “mild to moderate” depression, one of her options is now to scribble a title on a prescription pad. You take the torn-off sheet not to the pharmacy but to your local library, where it can be exchanged for a copy of Overcoming Depression, Mind Over Mood, or The Feeling Good Handbook. And depression is only one of over a dozen conditions treated. Other titles endorsed by the program include Break Free from OCD, Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway, Getting Better Bit(e) by Bit(e), and How to Stop Worrying.
Of course, the libraries aren't complaining. According to the article, the first three months of the program yielded 100,000 self-help books borrowed, and getting people to spend more time in the library is never a bad thing. Therapists might not be too happy when their job is outsourced to a non-profit organization, but as far as I can see, nobody is suggesting that books alone should ever be the treatment, but rather that these self-help books are beneficial. The article goes into the philosophical problems of "repurposing a bookshelf as a medicine cabinet", but personally, I think that's adding unnecessary drama to a simple and helpful treatment for a wide number of depression patients. What do you think?
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