Take it from someone who spends five days out of each week working in a library, staff do our best to provide support to patrons struggling with various types of mental health challenges. Since it is difficult for untrained library staff to do it alone, the New York Public Library has joined forces with ThriveNYC, an initiative by the City of New York that aims to provide “a mental health system that works for everyone”.
According to Susan Herman, Director of the Office of ThriveNYC, the goal is to fill critical gaps in our mental health system. One way for ThriveNYC to do this is to set up partnerships that “create effective and culturally competent solutions.” Since, as Herman notes, there may be library branches in a neighborhood where services may still be too hard to come by, “we’re here, putting books and programs in neighborhoods where they’ll make a real difference.”
This collaboration with NYPL has created Spaces to Thrive, including on-site mental health workshops on subjects like suicide prevention and Social-Emotional Learning. Workshops will be provided by groups such as the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, FloraMind, Safe Horizon, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and the JED Foundation.
In addition, ThriveNYC, together with NYPL, has curated a selection of fiction and nonfiction resources about living with mental health challenges, and whenever possible the titles will be available in multiple languages.
“Mental Health First Aid can save lives,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot, “The Spaces to Thrive initiative will bring these free trainings to communities across the city and make them more accessible to New Yorkers.”
Public libraries prioritize supporting all people, regardless of factors like race, religion, class, or beliefs. Anthony W. Marx, president of The New York Public Library, explained the partnership’s benefits.
“Public libraries have always played a key role in supporting the overall wellness of our city, offering all New Yorkers free and open access to a wide variety of programs, classes, information and resources to help them grow and succeed,” he said. “[W]e can bring reliable, important information to our communities, and work with our partners in government to support and strengthen the people of New York City.”
Spaces to Thrive will be launched in 13 branches (Mid-Manhattan Library at 42nd Street, Bronx Library Center, Woodstock Library, Mariners Harbor Library, Francis Martin Library, Pelham Bay Library, Soundview Library, Westchester Square Library, Countee Cullen Library, Kips Bay Library, Mulberry Street Library, Hamilton Grange Library, and Harry Belafonte-115th Street Library). Each was chosen with input from librarians.
Hopefully, similar partnerships will pop up at other libraries, providing better support for staff and patrons alike.