Many people who suffer from depression go to therapy sessions or take some form of medication to combat the mental illness but doctors are now prescribing books to help those with depression recover. The NHS has given the green light for doctors to write prescriptions for a variety of self-help books.
This new treatment is called bibliotherapy and is the brainchild of a 1916 clergymen named Samuel Crothers. Crothers proposed the treatment as a joke but since then doctors, nurses and others have taken the idea far more seriously.
They found that patients who had to wait long periods to receive treatment began reading up on their conditions. Some of these people actually began to show improvement based solely on their reading. Dr. Neil Frude noticed this trend and was able to find out which books really helped people.
He then created something of a prescription reading list. The idea was to compile the most helpful books for depression and make them available to sufferers. The treatment works in a number of ways. Some books are chosen based on the main character. Doctors choose books where people suffering from depression can relate to the main character and then follow said character as they overcome their problems. This offers both hope and solutions for someone facing a mental illness.
The other criteria used to choose books for the prescription reading list is based around isolation. Depression can be a very lonely disease and a book that can open up new worlds to the reader, making them feel like they are part of something, may help the depressed person.
This new form of reading therapy is not meant to replace therapy, although it is cheaper. It is designed to augment other treatments and offer an alternative for people who may wish to avoid antidepressants or want to supplement their current treatment.
The new therapy also has a somewhat unintended consequence. By finding the few self-help books that really work, Frude and his bibliotherapy may actually reduce the number of ineffective self-help books sold and prevent any harm they may cause.
While bibliotherapy still has a long way to go before it is more widely accepted as a treatment, The UK and the NHS are backing it as a way to provide at least a small amount of help for those in need. Frude himself said that bibliotherapy is no substitute for therapy but, for those who cannot afford therapy, something is better than nothing.
To learn more about depression check out the Life Works Knowledge Centre.