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.

7 thoughts on “They’re writing self-help books, but not for me”

  1. Thanks for you question on my blog about my mom’s history. I tried to answer it, simply.

    I would like to see a library in every hospital so that patients can read about other patients who recover.

    My understanding by the way is that at least half of those with so-called major mental illnesses is that trauma is part of their story. Surely a look at the beliefs learned in our family of origins plays a role in recovery. I really appreciate that you were a mom who believed in her son being able to get well.

    And I wonder if there are family of origin issues that you have needed to heal from your own past in helping your son. I know, I am revealing that I have not yet read your book.

    You are ever at the back of my mind as a powerful force for changing perceptions about mental illness.

    I thank you for your faith and your good work..

    Best, Smitty

  2. Mae Chinn Songer has a great blog and I believe an upcoming book about her philosophy of using the brain and training it in new habits and beliefs to better yourself. It’s a really awesome concept I think, her blog is at, and I suggest at least taking alook at it, as it’s something that you can do for yourself, it is a process but I have seen changes just doing some of her basics.

  3. I’ll have to look up that BBC radio interview! Do you by any chance have a link to the full interview with Neil Frude? Very interested in his theories on self-help literature… Many thanks!

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