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The Reader asks the people of Greater Manchester to read aloud with those recovering from addiction on World Mental Health Day

Written by Rachael Norris, 10th October 2019

After almost a decade reading in the city’s mental health wards, new groups will help people in the community tackling addiction problems

Volunteers in Salford and Trafford will read great literature aloud – to create space for better conversations and help people move forwards

This World Mental Health Day, national charity The Reader is calling for volunteers to lead new Shared Reading groups in Manchester for people recovering from addiction.

With this year’s global focus on suicide prevention, The Reader is making more groups available for people in recovery, to offer different spaces for people to get together and share personal challenges.

The Mental Health Foundation links addiction, as well as the social barriers around seeking help, to people ending their life by suicide, with a lasting impact on families and communities.

Supported by Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust’s Achieve Drug and Alcohol Treatment and Recovery Services, The Reader is offering free training for eight people to set up four new Shared Reading groups in Salford and Trafford.

Shared Reading – bringing great novels, poems and plays to life through live reading aloud and group discussion – is a powerful group experience that sparks connection, reflection and discovery.

By creating space for people of all backgrounds and life situations to explore their inner lives and develop meaningful relationships with others, Shared Reading promotes confidence, improves wellbeing and builds communities.

In The Reader’s latest Feedback Week survey, in mental health in-patient support groups:

  • 92% said they feel safe and welcomed.
  • 85% said they feel valued.
  • 85% said the ‘group gave me something different to think about’.

Volunteers benefit too. Of more than 400 volunteers asked during Feedback Week:

  • 94% said it has given them a sense of achievement
  • 86% said it had increased their enjoyment of reading
  • 84% said it has improved their wellbeing

“We know that deaths from drugs are at record levels in England and Wales,” Jane Davis, founder and director of The Reader, said.

“But in reality many people have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol so this kind of thing can happen to any of us, or people we know, with rippling effects on all of us too.

“That’s why we’re asking the community in Salford and Trafford to help us lead these new groups – to offer people who may well be neighbours – ‘something more’.”

This year, The Reader has already trained 14 volunteers to read aloud with people in local mental health wards, including people who had been patients there themselves.

A volunteer in Greater Manchester said: “Out of all the groups I do, it's the easiest for me emotionally and mentally because of the enjoyment I get from it; there's something special about reading. It does help my mental wellbeing”.

Volunteers receive a fully funded, three-day training course and ongoing support from The Reader. Tasters for people who want to know more are happening locally on 29 October and 12 November. To get involved, fill out the online form at www.thereader.org.uk/volunteer or email volunteer@thereader.org.uk for more information.

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