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A doctor's prescription for self-help books


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After the shootings in Aurora, Colorado, and Newtown, Connecticut, many people called for expanded mental health services.

But between 2009 and 2012, states cut $4.3 billion in spending for the mentally ill. Also, there's only about one mental health professional in the country for every 900 people.

So what if one opportunity for treatment was in a book?

In the UK, a program devised by psychologist Dr Neil Frude assembles a list of self-help books peer-reviewed by fellow professionals.

"There really were very few professionals available to give specialist treatment," says Dr Frude, "The normal way we think of therapy is one-to-one, face-to-face. And that's very resource hungry."

The idea is to help people who otherwise can't find -- or afford -- a therapist or prescription drugs.

In this program, local libraries will readily stock the books. Meanwhile, the list is given to physicians who Dr. Frude says often carry the biggest treatment load.

"90 percent of all people with a mental illness are actually treated exclusively by non-specialists," says Frude.

Dr. Frude says these books don't completely replace therapy or medication, but can help people with milder forms of depression or other issues that can be addressed through texts.

"If there is nothing, then here is something," says Dr. Frude, "And this is a whole lot better than nothing."