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UK Doctors to Start Prescribing Books to Teens with Mental Health Issues

A new initiative in England is attempting to get supportive books into the hands of teens suffering from mental health issues. But this is not run through a library; the initative works by having doctors prescribe these books to their younger patients.

The Reading Agency, a UK charity dedicated to reading awareness, established the Reading Well Books on Prescription program in 2013 to help adults cope with phobias, dementia, and other mental health issues. Now, the charity has expanded its effort to young teens, creating a list of titles from both fiction and non-fiction that examine those issues in an empathetic, empowering way.

The 35 books, selected by both health experts and teens that have struggled with mental health issues, cover a variety of common ailments—from depression and anxiety, to bullying and exam pressure. General practitioners, counselors, and school nurses can prescribe these titles, but they can also be self-prescribed and will be widely available in libraries across England. Some of the books included are already popular titles with teens, such as The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time and The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Check out the full book list here.

Not only is The Reading Agency providing a crucial resource, but it could end up saving England money. The Reading Agency cites in its press release that 1 in 10 young people suffer from a diagnosable mental health issue, and that the number of 15 and 16-year-olds who frequently feel anxious has doubled in the past 30 years. Currently, England spends £105 billion ($150 billion US) annually on mental health care, but this program costs only £1 per reader. While it’s no substitute for medical attention, having wider access to books that can give advice to young adults and help them cope will hopefully lead to greater ease with which they manage difficult situations and emotions.