Improving and sustaining mental wellbeing through keeping in touch.

"I love getting these, every time I get one I feel a warm glow."

Bibliotherapy "is the use of reading creatively; books, stories and poems to make people feel better...It is for anyone who may be suffering from stress, mild depression or is feeling isolated and lonely."

It takes place in both libraries and secure mental health wards, and is used "to combat isolation and loneliness in people with mental health issues."

Since 2011 Thumbprint has been used in a unique collaboration with one of the founders of bibliotherapy in the UK, Julie Walker, beginning when she worked at Kirklees Council library service.

Thumbprint bibliotherapy makes a powerful difference to people taking part:

"Hi, i just wanted to say thank you for the biblio texts, they really helped me get through my battle with anorexia, from which I'm fully recovered now...Thanks for this wonderful service."

It is a way for people to look after themselves and each other, rather than falling into a state of mind in which they have to draw on hard pressed and much more expensive professional support:

“I text them on to friends of mine and I know they have really helped a couple of them.”

Using Thumbprint is a low-cost way of keeping in touch with people "out of hours" when organisations are shut but people can feel most in need of support.

“[Thumbprint] is a very good way of increasing our capacity so that we can maintain effective and valid contact with more people. [It is] particularly useful for people who are quite isolated as it provides contact in between sessions. "

Hoot, an arts and mental health charity, and Lifeline, a drug and alcohol treatment agency, have found the same thing from their experience of using Thumbprint.

Using Thumbprint is an investment in reducing future costs.

Both Julie Walker's use of Thumbprint and that of Copleston Together, a community mental health and wellbeing network in South London, have highlighted that keeping in touch with people reassures them that support is available should they need it, and so they are less likely to need it.

Julia Honess of Copleston Together says:

“In mental health people move in and out of periods of being well and not, and these periods can last quite a long time, so maintaining contact is helpful. [Thumbprint] is great for people who are having minimal contact with the group, it keeps them in touch in a light way, and gives them the security of knowing that something is there that is connecting.”

Using Thumbprint was evaluated as part of an independent report on bibliotherapy:

“[She] enthused about the scheme, describing how it had been of great benefit and (alongside the group sessions) had ‘kept her going’ during periods of ill-health. She mentioned having received texts when she was in hospital and how nice this had been.”

People who take part in the use of Thumbprint in bibliotherapy report that sometimes the contact is at “just the right time", and this is also reported by Lifeline participants.

The positive outcomes of the approach taken by Julie Walker, Lifeline and Hoot by using Thumbprint have also been identified and validated in academic research, notably by Adrian Aguilera, Assistant Professor in the School of Social Welfare at UC Berkeley, who said in an email correspondence that:

"[People] often cited increased mood state awareness and feeling like someone cares about them...Text messages are ubiquitous, relatively simple, personal and cost effective.  These qualities make it a particularly attractive tool for mental health."