They’re writing self-help books, but not for me

(Apologies to George Gershwin.  (….They’re writing songs of love, but not for me)

I caught the tail end of a BBC radio interview last night. British libraries have begun stocking 30 evidence based self help books for mild to moderate mental conditions. Two thirds of people suffering from anxiety and depression in the UK apparently are not getting help.

After much discussion of the growing evidence base that self help books can help people feel better, the interviewer eventually piped up, “So, I guess this is not for people with major problems, say, bipolar.”

Well, it’s not. Apparently, people with “major mental illnesses” are beyond self help. Best to leave their supposedly intractable problems with the professionals, as we read in a different interview with clinical psychologist Neil Frude:

“The use of good self-help books is endorsed by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, although Frude said Nice does not say which books should be used, whereas it would with particular drugs.

“They are not for everybody,” Frude said. “And of course we are not talking about people with serious illnesses, but one in six of us will have a diagnosable mental illness in our lifetime.”

I can think of many self-help books for schizophrenia and bipolar. Let’s start with The Bible. Then, there’s The Divided Self (R.D. Laing), Selfhood (Dr. Terry Lynch), just about anything by Joseph Campbell, books on Eastern mysticism, poetry books, philosophical treatises on man’s relationship to God and nature. Agnes’s Jacket. No doctor’s prescription or NICE endorsement needed.