Reading Agency Adult Mental Health List

Between October 2017 and January 2018 I participated in a co-produced project to reconsider the adult mental health reading list that is available in libraries nationwide. The Reading Agency, who commissioned the work, produce a number of reading lists across a range of subject areas, designed to be a readily available source of information for anyone requiring them. The adult mental health reading list had been one of the first produced; even though it still contained many valuable aspects, much required a review, which was the job we had been hired to do.

The group I worked with had a huge range of experience, from learning differences to experiences of mental distress in many forms. Collectively we were able to bring a wealth of experience to bear, whilst developing many common consensuses on how and what we thought the reading list should be doing.

The remit of the work we covered over the four months was wide ranging and included:

  • Looking at language used in the reading list, in the book titles, the marketing and the body copy
  • Considered key messages for the book list, what did we think it should express and definitely shouldn’t
  • Reviewed the long and short list of titles, offering feedback and direction to the final selection
  • Considered what made us pick up a book from a number of different perspectives
  • Considered whether material about suicidal ideation and planning was suitable to include
  • How to market the book list and where it could be accessed, to maximise exposure to relevant audiences
  • Developing content for a diverse audience, including those with intellectual or learning differences as well as different ethnic or cultural backgrounds.

As well as the briefed work, we eventually contributed into how the work of the Reading Agency might be made more co-produced, by extending the remit of the focus group into different areas and engaging individuals with lived experience earlier in work, looking at things like the creative for the marketing materials.

The many books to review for the final selection I was able to introduce the Reading Agency staff to contacts I have within the Psychiatric Libraries Cooperative Scheme, with the belief that engaging mental health clinical staff and promoting the reading list here had the potential to reach far greater numbers of individuals experiencing mental distress. There is collaborative work taking place as a result of this with Reading Agency staff attending the PLCS conference this summer.

I was also able to use to some previous professional skills to assist with the development of the final creative. The creative space was very tight with only one A4 design being produced.

Some of the creative sketches I did that eventually developed to the final creative concept. When the agency’s first ideas were presented to us the general feedback was that there was room for improvement. The Reading Agency took this in good grace and devoted a good proportion of the third session to ideating just what improved designs might look like, from a lived experience perspective. I was able to draw upon my account management and design experience to help facilitate this process, with the new designs being much more appropriate and on-brief.