The Living Library – A Library Come to Life in the Outdoors for Green Ribbon Month
The College ran the ‘Living Library’ this May for Green Ribbon Month with See Change. By starting the conversation in the outdoors the College aimed to challenge the stigma of speaking about mental health difficulties and to encourage an important mantra ‘Don’t Judge A Book by Its Cover’.
When it comes to mental health everyone has a story to share and social contact is known to be one of the most effective ways of reducing mental health related stigma and discrimination. With this in mind, the College hosted a ‘living library’ outdoors. We were joined by members of the public and medical professionals who engaged with the human ‘books’ featuring real experiences related to mental illness and recovery. There was a wonderful sharing of knowledge and experiences through conversation and we would like to thank in particular all our ‘books’ and those who attended and engaged to fight stigma.
Members of the public had the opportunity to connect and engage with psychiatrists and people they may not have normally had the occasion to speak with. The aim was to better understand the lived experiences of others who have experienced or facilitated recovery from mental illness, challenging assumptions, prejudices and stereotypes. The books included a patient/service user and a family member/carer from the College REFOCUS committee and psychiatrists from various specialties who support people towards the path of recovery.
Some highlights included Rick Rossiter’s ‘A Father’s Confession’ where he shared his lived experience with bipolar and borderline personality disorder and his own suicide attempt which had a profound affect on his father, a fact he subsequently learned 30 years later.
Consultant General Adult and Old Age Psychiatrist, Dr Sarah O’Dwyer‘s book ‘Brain Health and Successful Ageing’ examined how to maintain a healthy brain, address memory complaints and cognitive impairment. She also explored the importance of social engagement and the role of continued learning in preserving mental wellness and cognition in older adults.
‘A Song Without Words’ from Dr Aoife Twohig, Consultant Child and Adolescent psychiatrist, brought us back to childhood and how the metaphors of song, dance and play are central to our understanding of human development and mental health from babyhood to adulthood.
Irishness can both help and hinder emotional distress and recovery from mental illness and Consultant Liaison Psychiatrist Dr Thekiso Thekiso discussed transcultural psychiatry in ‘A Double Edged Sword‘.
CPsychI Director for Public Education and Communication, Dr Miriam Kennedy explains:
“Being out in open air, listening and talking together, is a demonstration of core aspects of looking after your mental health. The fact the living library is made up of psychiatrists, people with experience of the services and family members mirrors the importance of mental health as an issue for all but also that relationships between and learning from all parties involved is a key aspect of successful recovery.”
Our human books included:
The ‘Living Library’ was run in partnership with See Change, the National Stigma Reduction organisation for Green Ribbon Month. The Green Ribbon campaign is held each May to spark a national conversation about mental health and to end the stigma that is often associated with mental illness.