Julie Spencer, Head of Library and Museum Services, Bolton City Council

Monday 10th October is World Mental Health Day, one of the ‘spikes’ on the Public libraries’ Universal Health Offer calendar.

Here in Bolton we are marking the day with an event to showcase support for young peoples’ mental health. On Monday evening in the lecture theatre at our Central Library we have put together a programme which involves not just the library service but also features the ground breaking work the Bolton Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services team has been undertaking in the town.

The Library Service will formally launch our Reading Well for young people: ‘Shelf Help’ collections – available freely in the safe, neutral space of all our libraries. The scheme has been developed by The Reading Agency in partnership with SCL, funded by Arts Council England and the Wellcome Trust. Public libraries really are the perfect place for young people to access this sort of support not only because they are well used by them– 74% of young people used a library in the last year according to Taking Part statistics – but also because of their wider health offer. And, these resources are also available for their families and carers to use, to help them better understand what their young people are experiencing.

Bolton Child and Adolescent Mental Health team have been using an art and culture approach to connect with young people. Through film, art, presentations and literature they are raising awareness of mental health, reducing stigma, sharing knowledge and improving outcomes for young people in Bolton. This event will showcase their work, some of the finished pieces will go on display in our town centre building which also houses the art gallery and museum. At the event there will be contributions from the young people involved and we will also hear from a parent. Our Youth MPs will get the opportunity to contribute as well as the professionals, it should be quite a varied programme with some audience participation – helped along with cakes and hot chocolate!

As SCL lead for the Universal Health offer I am aware that most authorities in England are now delivering Reading Well for young people: 93% have signed up to date. I have been lucky enough to be invited to a few launches. What is apparent to me is that it’s fantastic to see such strong partnerships coming together – like ours in Bolton – to support this important new public library health and well-being service which uses books and reading to help young people manage their own well-being. It’s especially brilliant to see young people involved because Reading Well really is a scheme that has been developed with and for them.

Most of us came into the public library world to make a difference to people. This scheme gives us the opportunity to do just that. If you are hosting events I am sure they will be a resounding success. Fingers crossed. Good luck.