ALIA submission in response to the Productivity Commission issues paper ‘The Social and Economic Benefits of Improving Mental Health’, April 2019

ALIA Library

Australian Library and Information Association

Public libraries across Australia provide and facilitate invaluable, community-focused workshops and programs for people with, or at risk of developing, mental ill-health. We provide information, raise awareness and aim to help remove any stigma from mental health issues. Hospital libraries, in addition to providing evidence-based information about mental health, are involved with work-based mental health programs, supporting health professionals for whom it is essential to care first for themselves, before being able to care for others. As libraries provide this ad hoc support for library patrons it often falls on individual libraries to train their staff in mental health first aid. Additionally, as reading plays an important role in maintaining good mental health, by allowing people to explore other places, times, people, situations, and look for meaning in their own lives, the role that libraries in providing access to books cannot be undervalued.
The Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) recommends that there be more formal support and funding for libraries to facilitate this support, starting with a pilot scheme. Funding for a pilot of a more ‘joined up’ approach between existing service providers would demonstrate how libraries, in partnership with case workers, could assist those suffering metal illness to be safe and utilise these welcoming and supportive community spaces. The introduction of more consistent and formalised funding to enable public libraries and hospital libraries to run the programs and workplace initiatives described in this submission is critical to ensure that libraries can continue to provide these services.
ALIA, ALIA Australian Public Library Alliance and ALIA Health Libraries Australia would welcome the opportunity to engage in discussions with the Productivity Commission about the points raised in this submission.

Deakin, ACT: Australian Library and Information Association
Australian Public Library Alliance; ALIA Health Libraries Australia