SPRINGFIELD — May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and MiraVista Behavioral Health Center is partnering with the Holyoke Public Library as well as Springfield’s city libraries to encourage awareness and conversations on the topic of mental wellness.
Displays of books and other materials are planned at the libraries, with a partnership kickoff on Thursday, May 4 from 11 a.m. to noon at Springfield City Library, 220 State St., to promote understanding around mental health and to encourage such collaborations for libraries to become better resources on the topic.
“Public libraries serve as community centers, gathering places for people across neighborhoods, and not just a place for books,” said María Pagán, Holyoke Public Library director. “The Public Library Association, for example, formed the Social Worker Task Force to identify best practices for addressing the social-service needs of library patrons.”
Pagán added she welcomes the partnership with MiraVista and potentially others to further educate library staff through programs on mental health, public lectures, and better service to patrons.
“In the last five years, public libraries have seen an increasing volume of patrons who are experiencing homelessness, substance use, and mental illness,” Pagán said. “Because of this, library staff need to be better-equipped to provide excellent service to all patrons. As librarians, we are trained to educate and provide information, but we are not trained in social work. As library employees, we also need to learn mental-health first aid.”
She noted that having partners with mental-health expertise will help better train and equip library staff to better serve the community.
“We are looking at our collection to include more updated information regarding mental health and substance-use conditions,” Pagán said. “The hope is that, by having educational materials about mental health and substance use exposed, the effort will eventually encourage people to learn about these conditions, recognize them, and seek any needed assistance.”
Her comments were echoed by Kimberley Lee, chief of Creative Strategy and Development at MiraVista.
“By promoting mental-health education, libraries can help dispel myths, misconceptions, and negative attitudes toward mental illness and create a supportive and inclusive environment where individuals feel comfortable seeking information and help without fear of judgment,” Lee said. “Libraries are hubs for lifelong learning, providing resources and opportunities for personal growth and development. Mental-health education can be viewed as a form of lifelong learning, as it equips individuals with knowledge and skills to promote mental well-being throughout their lives.”
Jean Canosa Albano, assistant director for Public Services at Springfield City Library, said librarians are busy and excitedly selecting materials for displays on mental-health throughout the month.