Mental Health Matters at This Arizona Library

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Over the past year, Duncan, Arizona has been rocked by suicides, but the rural town of only 800 residents has limited access to mental health professionals. There aren’t any psychologists in Duncan, and the high school doesn’t have a mental health counselor. But it does have a library.

When the Duncan Public Library (DPL) surveyed the community to identify needs, locals shared they were deeply in need of resources and support. “I asked a couple of parents and they all wanted to talk about mental health,” DPL director Ashlee Germaine told I Love Libraries.

With this information in hand and the belief libraries can be vital centers of healing, Germaine is launching a monthly series of mental health-related book and movie talks.

Each month, residents will come together to discuss movies or books related to mental health. The first pick, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, is particularly resonant with teens, but Germaine hopes future selections will bring in younger kids and adults as well.

Germaine will co-lead the discussions with a professional crisis counselor from a nearby town, giving locals a much-needed opportunity to connect with a professional.  DPL also plans to offer monthly grief counseling services to those in need.

“Many residents have come to Duncan in search of a quiet, rural lifestyle. But the realities of scarce medical resources, especially mental health resources, have become especially pronounced as the dangers of coronavirus infection reduce social opportunities for residents and leave some individuals dangerously cut off from others,” she said. This series, she noted, “will allow our library to get to know our residents better and help us build a happier and healthier community for our families.”

Funding for the DPL’s series comes from a grant from the American Library Association’s Public Programs Office. The Libraries Transforming Communities: Focus on Small and Rural Libraries initiative will support programs at 650 libraries across the country this year, touching on topics including racial justice, nature, local journalism, and the importance of mask-wearing.

To learn more about the Libraries Transforming Communities: Focus on Small & Rural Libraries grants, visit the American Library Association website.

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