Personal experiences of mental health challenges in “Living Library”

Living Books with Professor Fiona Lobban (right) who is herself a Living Book
Living Books with Professor Fiona Lobban (right) who is herself a Living Book

Staff with experience of mental health issues have been sharing their experiences with students at a “Living Library” held on campus.

This involves people who volunteer as a “Living Book” of their mental health journey which they offer to share in one-to-one conversations with “Readers” who are students or other staff trying to learn more about mental health.

Professor of Clinical Psychology Fiona Lobban said: “The aim is to support student well-being and promoting dialogue around common mental health challenges.”

Readers choose a book based on a short author summary and have a conversation with the “Living Book”, asking questions to create a dialogue.

“The idea is to have conversations that draw on lived experience to inform, challenge our preconceptions and change the way we think. Everyone within the library is equal and books can choose to decline answering any of the readers’ questions if they so wish.”

Several of the “Living Books” attended an event at the library on campus where they held informal one-to-one chats with students.

For her Living Book “Handling Bereavement as a Teenager”, Pam Pickles describes her father’s death when she was 14 and her mother and brother becoming alcoholics as a result.

“I felt that I had to be the sensible and consistent member of the family and I did my utmost to care for them both. This meant that I lost much of the ‘normal’ existence of the average teenager as I struggled to pursue my studies alongside my caring responsibilities.”

Jez Bebbington’s Living Book is called “Facing up to lifelong challenges”.

He said: “Last year I had my most severe experience of breakdown, triggered by workload and stress. With the help of close friends and family, I realised that the illness I was feeling could be helped, and the emotional burdens I was carrying could be dealt with in a different way.”

In the Living Book called “Failure to Assimilate", Jaime Benjamin talks about how “being different can be an incredibly painful and exclusionary thing. When all you wanted to do was be yourself – but who you are doesn’t belong with others.”

Living Book Stuart Powers describes the effect on his mental health of caring for a sick relative in “Riding through a breakdown”.

“By retracing my route, I’ll give you an idea of what it’s like to live and care for someone after their attempted suicide. Then push on so I can show you how this led me into taking the wrong path and why I turned to nature to recover.”

Hannah Rosbrook-Brown has three Living Books called “The toll of supporting a transitioning partner”, “‘A dream career wasn’t worth my mental health” and “Gifted and talented – and struggling” with a description of being “in the worst state of mental health I have ever been and felt completely unable to ask for help or show any weakness.”

The next Living Library is a drop in event between 2 and 4pm in the campus library event space on Thursday May 2nd. Additional Book Titles will be available.

Find out more here

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