Academic Libraries and Mental Health

Following my ignite presentation at the North Atlantic Health Sciences Libraries Conference about co-creating library/social services partnerships with our public library members, I received a question about how academic health sciences librarians can support medical students’ mental health because of the increased risk of mental illness due to factors like limited sleep, intense competition, and academic demands during medical school.

Following my presentation, I thought about some other responses that I could have shared.  So, here are some tips for ways that academic librarians can support students’ mental health:

    • Incorporate opportunities for mindfulness into the academic library experience such as space for meditation and yoga, stress reduction workshops, mindfulness kits, exercise bikes, and plants. Check out the mindfulness activities at the Merrimack College Library
    • Host an all-campus read of a mental health book such as An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison followed with a presentation by a panel of health professionals who have experienced mental illness themselves or cared for a loved one.
    • Host an all-campus read of a fun book like the Little Book of Hygge:  Danish Secrets to Happy Living.  Combine it with a Season on Hygge similar to the Groton Public Library’s recent program series.  Create a social area in the library for board games and puzzles.  Create cozy reading nooks.  Make a fire place out of weeded books and orange lights. Provide coffee, tea, and hot chocolate.
    • Use crafts as a social opportunity for stress relief.  Such as this fun Study Buddies! activity at the Tufts Hirsch Library.
    • Get trained in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) and/or host workshops on campus.  MHFA workshops are often grant funded.  Find a local MHFA workshop or trainer near you.
    • Host a Graphic Medicine Book Discussion on a topic like addiction, bipolar disorder, or OCD.  You can get a book discussion kit from the NNLM.
    • Create a “Take What You Need” display with post-it notes with affirmations such as “You are smart, ” “Say what you need to say,” and “Peace.”
    • Create a gratitude display where students can draw or write what they are thankful for either with post-its, on a large paper, or white board.   Giving thanks and expressing gratitude is scientifically proven to improve mental health.

    Remember that saying, “put on your oxygen mask first.”  We are most useful help others and provide outstanding customer service when we are healthy ourselves.  If you are feeling overwhelmed from helping patrons in-crisis, check out our webinar on compassion fatigue.   Feeling stressed?  Take a walk or get a cup of herbal tea on your break.  Talk with a friend.  Listen to some music that you enjoy.  Remember to take care of yourself too.

    By Michelle Eberle, Consultant

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