Evaluation of the Reading Well Books on Prescription Shelf Help scheme for young people

Polley, M.J. and Kovandzic, M. 2017. Evaluation of the Reading Well Books on Prescription Shelf Help scheme for young people.

TitleEvaluation of the Reading Well Books on Prescription Shelf Help scheme for young people
AuthorsPolley, M.J. and Kovandzic, M.
TypeProject report
Abstract

Executive Summary

It is estimated that 2,773,460 people under 17 are in need of child and adolescent mental health services provided by the GP or schools. It is also known that half of all anxiety disorders - the most common mental health condition - are experienced before the age of 12 years old.

Young people face many risk factors for poor mental health but not all young people with mental health conditions seek support or receive the support or services they need. The current environment of austerity means that there is decreasing resourcing of the third sector and increasing pressure on CAMHS.

‘Shelf Help’ is the name that has been used to market the Reading Well for young people scheme. It is a reading list for those who experience mental health problems between 13-18yrs old, or are friends with, live with, or care for people who do and is. Shelf Help is delivered in partnership with the Society of Chief Librarians as part of the Chief Librarian’s Universal Health Offer.

Reading Well for young people is endorsed by health professionals and supported by public libraries and provides advice of specific topics such as anxiety, depression, stress, OCD, self-harm, bullying, eating disorders, autism and aspergers as well as general topics to do with adolescence.

This research report documents the impact of introducing ‘Shelf Help’ – the Reading Well for young people scheme - into a secondary school environment in partnership with a local charity, which supports the mental wellbeing of young people.

Adult stakeholders were interviewed during a scoping phase (n=12) to determine how to discretely monitor the usage and impact of the Reading Well for young people at The Priory School and Phase, in Hitchin.

Multiple copies of the reading list were given to the School and Phase, and young people were left to interact with the books for 3 months (Dec 2016 – February 2017. The engagement with the books was monitored at each site. Young people and key adult stakeholders were consented to take part in focus groups and interviews (during March 2017). Qualitative analysis of interviews focus groups used to determine the impact of engaging with the Reading Well for young people books.

33 participants provided qualitative data for the project, 18 young people and 15 adults.
26 participants (8 adults and 18 young people) took part in focus groups and interviews to determine engagement with and impact with the scheme.

Innovative and successful approaches to getting young people to engage with Shelf Help books were devised e.g. Creating a wellbeing corner in the library, selecting a’ book of the week’, promoting the scheme to the whole school to create inclusivity and talking points, making Shelf Help the focus of wellbeing events, a staff reading challenge, opportunity to write short reviews for other library users. Books were recommended to service users of Phase which included young people and parents.

128 Reading Well for young people books were borrowed from the library by 67 people during the 3 months, a further 35 titles were borrowed by 18 users at Phase. Borrowers ranged from year 7 to year 11 as well as adults. Several titles were renewed and many were continually on loan for the duration of the project. Interestingly, many people used the wellbeing corner to browse and read books during break-times, without taking out loans.

Many positive impacts of reading the Shelf Help books were identified. Four key themes emerged in the qualitative research analysis:

Improved awareness, knowledge and understanding of mental health conditions.
Improved emotional and mental wellbeing, specifically relating to confidence, self-esteem, hope, isolation and emotional intelligence
Changes in behaviour and improved relationships
Normalising and destigmatizing mental health discussions.

Through piloting Shelf Help in a secondary school and charity setting there were several areas of learning going forwards. The books can be accessed by people with low, moderate or severe mental health conditions, thus suggestions to develop a supportive environment include:

Ensuring appropriate training in mental first aid to key staff involved in the shelf help scheme
– this may include staff who would not normally have this training.
Provide time and access for staff to read through the list of books and familiarise themselves with the content prior to rolling out to the whole organisation.
Providing activities, or book groups that would allow young people to discuss the books they have been reading within a facilitated environment, especially where some books may make young people feel sad or upset.
Ensure the use of the Shelf Help leaflet as much as possible, specifically as it has contact number for support organisations that can be contacted, often 24/7.

In conclusion, all participants found the Reading Well for young people scheme highly acceptable and the inclusive approach has supported an increase in discussion about mental health in each organisation that piloted ‘Shelf Help’. Further research should now be conducted to further understand the impact of the Reading Well for young people scheme on wellbeing and resilience.

FileReading Well for young people evaluation.pdf
KeywordsMental Health
Young people
Bibliotherapy
Shelf Help
Theory of change
Evaluation
Year2017
Publication dates
Published2017
Page range0-49

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