Are self-help books the way to combat mental health?

More than 3,000 people have been handed self-help books to combat mental health illness in Merseyside in the last year. More than 1,000 are using them in Liverpool. Yet, some experts have raised concerns over whether these books are more a hindrance than help.  Mersey Mash reporter Nafi Wernsing investigates.


A recent trend has emerged in the way some patients are dealing with mental health issues.

So-called “self-help” books are being used to treat people suffering mental illness.

These books are the result of the NHS’s Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme.

They are offered to patients promising a range of programmes to help combat depression and anxiety among other illnesses.

They are low-intensity therapies, guided by counsellors to help patients.

According to the latest figures of 2017/2018, 65 people on Merseyside were treated by books but with no other therapy.

Across England, 5,746 people were treated using non-guided self-help books, compared to 49,929 who were treated with guided self-help books.

According to statistics on World Mental Health Day 2018, mental health problems are on the rise among teenagers both in the UK and Europe. In the UK, suicide is the biggest killer of young people in the UK.

But Margaret Hanson, CEO of Imagine Independence, a charity organisation that helps improve people’s wellbeing and mental health issues in Liverpool, has voiced fears that books could “overmedicalise” mental health.

She told Mersey Mash: “There is a very well evidence intervention people can find useful as part of developing their own resilience and improving their mental health and wellbeing.”

Other experts think these books may not be sending the right messages across to patients.

Dr Tony O’Sullivan, co chair of pressure group Keep Our NHS Public, said the danger of such messages is telling patients to look after themselves because the health service won’t.

Experts say these books should not be seen as a substitute to skilled and professional therapies.

They do however provide treatments one can do at their own pace.

One of the biggest issues regarding treatments is the long waiting lists to seek help.

According to statistics provided on World Mental Health Day 2018, 75% of young people are not receiving treatment.

Ms Hanson said the harsh reality is that “there aren’t enough services for people who get into a mental health crisis”.


According to statistics body NHS Digital, a sixth of the population of England aged 16 to 64 will have a mental health problem.

A dangerous trend is on the rise, too, as mental health problems among people are increasing.

Women are more likely to be affected in comparison to men. However, men are still more likely to take their own lives.

Changes are set to be made as to how the country supports its mental health patients.

A £2 billion real terms funding was announced by Chancellor Philip Hammond to increase mental health support in Autumn 2018.

In addition, new crisis services can be expected by 2023/2024 where the NHS will invest up to £250 million.

New crisis services include 24/7 support via NHS 111, a crisis team for children and young adults scattered throughout the country, comprehensive mental health support in every major A&E, more mental health specialist ambulances and community support.

The NHS website says if you are suffering from mental illness, know that you are not alone and that there is support for you. It is important to talk to those who you trust and let family and friends know what is going on.

The list below, provided by the NHS, is of free helplines that you can use if you are feeling depressed or suicidal.

You can also contact your GP, call 111 or the Liverpool Mental Health Crisis Team.

Liverpool Mental Health Crisis Team Contact Details

Helpline: 0151 706 0624

Fax: 0151 706 5408

Address: University Hospital, A&E Department, Prescot Street, Liverpool, Merseyside, L7 8XP

Service times: Open 9am – 12 midnight. Psychiatric SHO available on call in A & E: midnight – 9am

Helplines Contact Details
Samaritans – for everyone Call 116 123


Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) – for men Call 0800 58 58 58 – 5 pm to midnight every day


Papyrus – for people under 35 Call 0800 068 41 41 – Monday to Friday 10am to 10pm, weekends 2pm to 10pm, bank holidays 2pm to 10pm

Text 07786 209697


Childline – for children and young people under 19 Call 0800 1111 – the number will not show on your phone bill
The Silver Line – for older people Call 0800 4 70 80 90

You can also visit Imagine Independence, a charity organisation that helps improve people’s mental health and well-being in Liverpool. Their aim is to help people be fully independent and reach their full potential through offering various services.

Contact Details

  • Head Office: Imagine Independence

                                   25 Hope Street



(Pics courtesy of

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