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Birmingham and Solihull Mental health NHS Foundation Trust
Better Together

“How reading helped me recover” – local mental health trust appears on National Radio to mark World Mental Health Day

Published: 09/10/2018

 Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (BSMHFT) is part of a special programme of BBC Radio 4’s Front Row, broadcast on World Mental Health Day – Wednesday 10 October 7.15pm.
The station’s magazine show covering arts and culture is focusing on reading and mental health and features Peer Support Worker and service user, Eugene Egan, BSMHFT alongside writers Marian Keyes and Laura Freeman, and comedian Russell Kane who all speak of the role reading has played in helping their mental wellbeing.  Presenter, Stig Abell also talks to Dr Pravir Sharma, Consultant Psychiatrist, BSMHFT, who highlights the efficacy of reading as a treatment for mental health conditions.
Stig was keen to explore the role reading plays in mental wellbeing after finding that reading, especially the novels of PG Wodehouse helped him to overcome overwhelming anxiety.  
Eugene Egan, who also delivers Reading for Wellbeing sessions at the Trust’s ‘Recovery College for All’, was keen to share his story on how reading contributed to his recovery from mental ill health: “I was inspired to read by a support worker while I was an inpatient on a psychiatric ward. I began with Homer's Odyssey, which was a challenge, but I really related to Odysseus's travels because of my own periods of homelessness. It started a passion for reading and I have continued to read to maintain my mental health and wellbeing. I was thrilled to be asked to share my experiences and I really hope it inspires others to take up reading.”
Dr Sharma, an advocate of reading to support recovery in mental health explains how it can help some people: “I had a sense that I wanted to do more for my service users and began to recommend reading to a number of them. Reading can be easily scheduled into someone’s day. It is effective and engaging, as depending on the theme of the material, it can help to bring about feelings of hope, empathy and inspiration, as well as being a distraction from their current, often challenging situation. There is no hard clinical evidence to say that reading is beneficial to those with mental health conditions, although research is ongoing, but the consensus is that it definitely helps a large number of individuals.”
Dr Sharma has worked with Anita Phul, Library Services, BMSHFT to create ‘Many Roads to Wellbeing’, an online wellbeing reading collection for service users and carers of all ages covering themes such as maintaining hope and mindfulness.
There is more information available on the Reading and Mental Health programme on the BBC website.