Offering Libraries on Prescription in Athens

Athens, Greece

Challenge team: Athens Comics Library and Refugee Week Greece

Population of Athens: 3.1 million

Summary: Athens Comics Library and Refugee Week Greece are working together to unlock the healing power of stories and creativity.

Over 5 years of continued economic crisis have had a huge impact on the estimated 20,000 refugees living in Athens as well as on the greek residents of the city, followed by a 2 year COVID19 pandemic global crisis,  resulting in psycho-social stress, loneliness and mental health problems.

Athens Comics Library is working together with Refugee Week Greece – a community initiative celebrating the contribution and creativity of people who have experienced migration – to unlock the therapeutic power of stories. They call it social prescribing for libraries to improve wellbeing and mental health.

The challenge team is working together to create a ‘Library on Prescription’ scheme – offering a range of psychosocial and creative services to help provide a place of sanctuary for people who need safe places to connect and heal. 

Together, they have reached out to 45 libraries across Greece and selected 4 to design and deliver a programme of tailored-made creative activities for the local community facing mental health challenges – from Athens to Crete – to pilot the initiative with different groups, including young people, people with learning disabilities, elderly women in rural areas and prisoners. 

“Libraries should be acknowledged and celebrated as an essential part of community life, promoting independence and resilience, where the profile of local library users reflects the makeup of their community,” said the challenge team, who explained there is a growing body of evidence showing that different arts being prescribed have a positive impact on a variety of health conditions. 

Feedback has so far been positive for the weekly stand up comedy sessions. One 25-year-old regular attendee said: “I love it – I wish it was twice a week! Every time I go, I have a great time and cannot wait for the next week.”

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