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Books & Reading

Reading (or bibliotherapy) has been a source of comfort for lots of people for a long time. Here’s how some people use it to help when they are struggling with their emotions:

  • Go back to a book you’ve read before that was particularly good or felt really comforting

  • Read a Fantasy or Science Fiction book to completely escape from your mind for a bit

  • Find a self-help or psychology book on a topic you’re particularly struggling with at the moment

There’s times in my life when the library has felt like a really safe place for me. Somewhere I can go to just to explore and look at what books I find without having to pay or anyone judging me. It’s just somewhere quiet I can go to where no one cares about what I look like or what’s going on at home. Everyone is there for their own reasons...

Why not try visiting your local library and asking where the self-help or the young people’s section is. See what you find and spend time just browsing and finding something that interests you.  Click on the following links to find your nearest library in England and WalesNorthern Ireland or Scotland.

Our friends over at Reading Well have also worked with public libraries to create a list of the best books to support wellbeing.  You can browse their full booklist or check out books specifically for young people in primary or secondary schools.  All books should be available to borrow from your local library.  For more details you can read their blog written for World Book Day 2020.

In this video, renown children's author, Jacqueline Wilson, describes how books and reading helped her mental wellbeing growing up:

What young people have told us:

'My imagination broadens when reading a book, you can interpret the information however you want.'

'Fiction books are a great form of escapism. Non-fiction books are a great distraction. Personally challenging myself intellectually is quite fun. I can channel my emotions and energy into debating ideas.'

'Might not be for you if you are 'visually orientated', may actually put you to sleep instead.'

'I think it helped because it is an escape and it helps you to get out of your own head and into someone else's world for a while. It can also be very helpful when falling asleep, so that you don't have to experience that restless, mind churning feeling before falling asleep.'

'You can get lost in amazing worlds. I like dystopias, non-fiction, and stuff written by George Orwell. (i.e Animal Farm).'

'It's a form of escapism, you can easily get lost in a good book and forget about your problems for a while. You can focus on another character, someone you don't have to worry about and just let their story unfold. You can pick what genre of book to read too, if you need something uplifting you can choose a heartwarming book with a happy ending for example.'

'I like to escape reality, and reading books is the perfect way to do this. I write my own books too. I enjoy making up all sorts of stories and reading existing stories to escape to a world more exciting than my own. Reading also helps me to develop my imagination (when I am reading fiction). I also read non-fiction texts, such as articles online, to broaden my knowledge about topics that interest me.'

'It helped because when you are reading (even if it is a non fiction book) you can get lost in a story or reading facts. Your mind focuses on what you are reading, not with what you are dealing with. You can pretend you are someone else.'

'I think it has helped because it has relieved stress and anxiety over other things in life and has put my focus on something else.'

There isn’t much academic research in the area of self-care for young people who are living with mental health issues. We are trying to find out more about what works for different people so we can better advise other young people what to try.

If you’ve tried this activity when you were struggling in relation to your mental health, please let us know if it helped you and how by clicking on the ‘Did this activity help you’ button.