Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Libraries and mental health

Shaun Bailey, an ambassador for the big society project and a former Conservative prospective candidate, has asserted that local councils are closing public libraries because they are "not being used". (Radio 4 'Today 'programme).

Where has he been?  Over the last three years local libraries have become a major resource for mental health in the south-west London borough where I work as a bridge builder.  The libraries are being used as never before.

As part of the movement to mainstream independence, mental health provider Imagine has moved its day centre services into the local libraries.  Not only does this dramatically decrease the marginalisation of people with mental health challenges but it also enables more access for more people.  Libraries in their role as community providers have never been more useful and more utilised.  The stigma of mental ill-health is itself sidelined when service users access libraries along with the rest of the general public.  That's mainstream.

Libraries managers and staff were amongst the first to sign up for mental health awareness training when it was offered in the borough. 

I count libraries are amongst the most socially inclusive environments in contemporary community life.  My client meetings often take place in the local library.  Meeting in a library is one of the best ways to start the conversation about mainstream in a non-clinical setting. 

Mainstream can only take place in and from mainstream.  Libraries are at the forefront of the practice of inclusion.

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