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Essex Libraries awarded grants to explore mental health and wellbeing

22 November 2017

Essex Libraries will help communities explore major health and wellbeing issues like stress, obesity, body image and even death.

Out of 120 applicants nationwide, two projects from Essex County Council’s library service were among 14 chosen to receive a share of £200,000 from the Carnegie UK Trust and Wellcome, organisations dedicated to improving the lives and wellbeing of people.

The purpose of the one-year ‘Engaging Libraries’ programme is to inspire curiosity, spark debate and create conversation by enabling people to get involved in imaginative and interactive projects exploring health and wellbeing topics on a national scale.

One of the successful applicants is Essex Libraries’ Wellbeing Selfies project, which aims to encourage children and young people to discuss how they manage stress and improve their mental wellbeing.

“Enabling young people to share and reflect in a safe space will help our children feel more connected and included,” said Cllr Susan Barker, the Council’s Cabinet Member responsible for libraries.

“Public engagement is all about enabling a two-way conversation where ideas and experiences are discussed and debated. Projects such as these enable us to start these conversations. , but we believe learning from the personal experiences of others can be the most valuable mental wellbeing advice and support someone can receive.”

Essex Libraries was also chosen to work with St Helens Libraries, Libraries Unlimited in Devon and Sheffield Libraries in partnership with EmpathyLab to explore local wellbeing and empathy-linked issues, with a £13,000 grant.  Together they will run a series of workshops designed to support people’s emotional skills, culminating in a series of interactive experiences on Empathy Day in June 2018.

“We want to engage with local people and encourage discussions about the connection between wellbeing and empathy in public life,” added Cllr Barker.

“Empathy is so important in today’s divided world, where extremes of opinion pull societies apart rather than bring them together. The fact we are engaging with library users in three other parts of the country makes the whole programme very exciting.”

Martyn Evans, Chief Executive, Carnegie UK Trust said: “Public libraries are unique, trusted places at the heart of local communities. The Engaging Libraries programme gives libraries the opportunity to engage with the public on a range of complex health and wellbeing issues, providing a safe space for debate, discussion, interaction and learning. 

“We were delighted to receive 120 thought-provoking applications to the programme and we are very excited about the range and quality of the winning entries. We’re looking forward to seeing these projects come to fruition and we hope that they will be a source of inspiration and learning for the public library sector.”