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Suffolk Libraries reaches out for Mental Health Awareness Week

Ahead of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, Suffolk Libraries, the charity which runs the county’s library service, is highlighting the many ways in which it tackles social isolation and improves wellbeing across our communities.

Mental Health Awareness Week runs from 9 to 15 May and this year has the theme of loneliness – something that affects millions of people across the UK. This year marks the 22nd Mental Health Awareness Week which is hosted by the Mental Health Foundation to raise awareness of mental health.  

Long-term loneliness is closely linked to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Suffolk Libraries is using the week to draw attention to the many ways in which its services tackle loneliness and isolation in Suffolk.

Suffolk Libraries is the only library service in the UK to host a specific mental health and wellbeing service. Libraries host regular Open Space wellbeing sessions and a huge range of regular social activities which bring people together. Our Home Library Service visits people in their own homes, also providing much needed interaction with isolated older people or those with mobility problems.

Our Phone a Friend service has evolved from a highly successful telephone befriending service run during lockdown. Now run by volunteers, it has made nearly 12,000 calls since the start of the pandemic. Library staff also signpost people to other organisations who can help, and our website is packed with information and resources such as reading lists for health and wellbeing.

Suffolk Libraries has teamed up with Wellbeing Suffolk to host a series of drop-in sessions in libraries running through the whole month of May from Tuesday 2 May to Tuesday 31 May. Wellbeing Suffolk will be on hand to offer advice, guidance and to talk about the support and resources they provide.

Suffolk Libraries is also asking people to give themselves a break from social media for Mental Health Awareness Week which runs from 9 to 15 May.

Bruce Leeke, Chief Executive of Suffolk Libraries, said:

“2022 will mark ten years of our charity, Suffolk Libraries running the county’s library service. Over this period and particularly during the toughest days of the pandemic, Suffolk Libraries has played an increasingly vital role in tackling isolation. We know from our own research that what we do improves social connectedness throughout the community. Whether it’s making calls, visits to people in their own homes or providing thousands of activities for all ages – we enable Suffolk communities to come together to meet likeminded individuals or try something new.

“Our expert staff are also aware of how to refer people to other organisations who can help if people open up to them about how they are feeling – as they often do. Mental Health Awareness Week is an ideal time to talk about loneliness and the ways in which Suffolk Libraries and many other organisations can help.”

This week (2-8 May) is also Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week and Suffolk Libraries is raising awareness of its perinatal support service Me Myself and Baby, run in partnership with Suffolk Mind.

Mark Rowland Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation said:

“We hope this year’s theme of loneliness will strike a chord with many of us who felt lonely and struggled throughout the Covid pandemic.

“Millions of us experience loneliness from time to time. We know that some people are at higher risk of experiencing loneliness and the evidence shows the longer we feel lonely, the more we are at risk of mental health problems.

“Loneliness deserves more attention and we’re calling on everyone who has struggled as a result of being lonely to share their experiences. We must work together - as individuals, as a society and through government policy - to reduce loneliness and prevent mental health problems by investing in welcoming, social spaces and new community initiatives.”

Find out more about the many ways Suffolk Libraries can help you with your wellbeing.

Some of the other ways people can participate in Mental Health Awareness Week:

  • During Mental Health Awareness Week use the hashtag #IveBeenThere to share experiences of loneliness to support others and give the campaign momentum
  • Sign up to walk, run or job as part of our 80 Miles in May challenge and share your photos using #80MilesinMay and #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek

Find out how we support and improve wellbeing and make lives better for communities across Suffolk.