The global COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the arts and cultural sector both in Athens and across Greece. The library and community sector has seen radical disruptions to many of its routines, funding sources and relationships. Yet, physical distancing has shown all of us how much we need and value connection, culture and libraries as places of sanctuary.
With the latest development in Ukraine, Europe’s safety has been shaken,and citizens seek places to feel as sanctuary, where they can come together as communities and show solidarity and connection. At the same time, everyone can affirm that libraries constitute one of the most reliable means available to contemporary developed societies to overcome the crisis.
The current levels of psychosocial distress in society are significant, as evidenced by the number of prescribed antidepressants and the numbers of working days lost as a result of stress and anxiety. There is a growing body of evidence that active involvement in creative activities provides a wide range of benefits, including the promotion of well-being, quality of life, health and social capital. One of the most pressing public health concerns is mental illness, a condition that affects hundreds of millions of people globally. In fact, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health condition at some point in their lives. That means 4 in 4 people are significantly and profoundly impacted directly or indirectly.
Whilst the current Covid-19 crisis has brought untold personal, social and economic tragedy, we also want to know how people’s lifestyles have changed and what opportunities there might be for people-centred reinvention.
People’s wellbeing and mental health are being tested in ways we couldn’t have imagined. We need to prioritise our most vulnerable in society, as well as the key workers who are over-stretching themselves now for all of us.
The quality of the physical environment and connection to other people will be a big part of looking after our wellbeing. Those who have good access to the things they need nearby, quality green space and streets that are easy to walk and cycle on are feeling healthier, less stressed and appreciating the slower pace of life.
Through Libraries on Prescription, it is clear that the act of creating something tangible had a transformative effect on people. Whether through visual art, music, artistic movement, photography – all art forms provided people with tools to express emotion, experience or thought in a way that they may not have had access to before. The Libraries who facilitated spaces for Libraries on Prescription will help to give people these tools, partnering with them to bring the positive changes that they wanted to see in their own lives.
We would like to first create an Advisory committee of 5 medical and wellbeing professionals who will be able to guide us through any health challenges our Programme faces along the way, ensuring that health protocols and support is provided across our Programme strands.
Through the initial research of the Programme we will select four locations (one will be in Athens) across Greece where we will identify Libraries and local Health Services who would be willing to join the Programme and have the skills and capacity to join us. Through the Training Programme at the first strand of Libraries on Prescription, we will train up all members of staff and other interested local stakeholders on the rational of this Programme, making sure they are equipped with the right Tools and have created a strong local network to launch their own Libraries on Prescription scheme for the local community.
Locations we are hoping to implement this Programme, are those who have suffered serious trauma and disasters the last years:
Athens (socio-political crisis)
Lesvos (refugee crisis)
North Evia (natural disasters),
as well as an addition of one location which we will decide once we complete Strand 1 and after discussion and advice from Librarians and PSS workers who will participate at the Course, on what the challenges of their communities have been those last two years together with the covid19 global crisis.
Health services (local GPs, or PSS services) will be referring patients to the services the local Library provides, while we will also monitor the effect on their following factors:
- Mental health
- Connection with the local community
- Other skills developed