Cinema, Media Studies, and Music Librarian University of Washington Libraries Seattle, Washington
Mental illness is a subject that is often met with silence and misunderstanding in librarianship. With 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. suffering from a mental illness yearly, these struggles are a common yet lonely experience (NAMI, 2017). Fear of stigma further deters library workers from seeking out resources or support for mental illness. This fear prevents the provision of support, empathy, and understanding. Clearly, mental health is a serious concern and must be addressed more openly within LIS if we are to offer libraries as an understanding, empathetic, and inclusive space.
However, there have been small steps in the direction of mental health conversation. LIS Mental Health Week, created in 2016 by two academic librarians Cecily Walker and Kelly McElroy, encourages LIS professionals and students to candidly discuss (via social media, blogging, etc.) the impact of mental health issues on library work (Samle, 2016). Additionally, research regarding empathy as a component of librarianship and emotional labor reflects a broader awareness regarding the emotional and psychological needs within our field. Each of these efforts illustrate how critical it is to encourage and support a dialogue about mental health. By taking care of ourselves and our colleagues, we are able to foster better work environments, sustain better libraries, and support better communities.
In this session, we will explore mental health in a way that is comfortable, safe, and thoughtful through a panel discussion and small group/paired role play activities. The panel, including a mental health professional, two disability advocates, and two librarians, will provide resources, guidance, and honest discussion regarding mental health within the LIS community. Role playing, commonly used in professional training, therapy, and psychological research, gives attendees a safe and non-threatening way to practice using support skills. The role play scenarios used in this session will be developed collaboratively by the presenters and a mental health professional.
At the close of this session, attendees will leave with a greater awareness of core concepts of mental health, the impact of mental health on the profession, and resources for learning more about mental health support and care. But most importantly, those participating in this session will know that they are not alone. Know that we all slip and fall. Know that we can all help one another.
Upon completion, participants will be able to articulate mental health issues within the LIS profession.
Upon completion, participants will be able to describe the mental health needs among LIS professionals.
Upon completion, participants will be able to describe proactive ways in which the will support their colleagues and themselves regarding mental health.