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Shelf Talk 24: Library Receives National Grant

Shelf Talk: Library Announces Grant for Mental Health Awareness


The Blytheville Public Library has been selected as one of 200 libraries to participate in Libraries Transforming Communities: Focus on Small and Rural Libraries, an American Library Association (ALA) initiative. The competitive award comes with a $3,000 grant that will help the library raise awareness of Mental Health issues and available services in Mississippi County, and help destigmatize a diagnosis and/or treatment of mental health challenges.

As part of the grant, Blytheville Library staff will take an online course in how to lead conversations, a skill vital to library work today. Staff will then host a series of conversations with residents and local experts about Mental Health Awareness. To help ensure that the conversations will be accessible and safe during COVID19, grant funds will be used to purchase streaming and audio equipment. Additional grant funds will provide event publicity, refreshments, and supplies, and build the library’s collection of mental health resources.

In the early fall of 2020, MCLS director Lowell Walters was invited to participate in a work group formed by the Mississippi County Hospital System. This group, comprised of leaders from various local service, academic, health care, and faith organizations, has committed to work together to raise awareness of and destigmatize mental health diagnosis and treatment.

It quickly became apparent that there is a lot of work to be done. Data shows that 10-20% of our population is living with a mental health challenge, and that at least half of these individuals are not receiving help. Veterans face special challenges with mental health, from PTSD to a higher suicide rate. Recent studies have shown that anxiety and depression diagnoses are on the rise during the pandemic; those who have been diagnosed with COVID19 are more than twice as likely to suffer from depression as those who have not been diagnosed.

The conversation series sponsored by this grant is scheduled to begin in May 2021, to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Month, and will strive for a deeper understanding of the state of mental health in our community. The first conversation will be an exploration of the mental health issues facing our community, along with an overview of available treatments and services.

The second conversation will explore how COVID19 (and related issues, like extended quarantine) have affected our community’s mental health. Follow-up conversations will focus on mental health challenges experienced by specific populations, like veterans and youth/children. Conversations will feature a panel of local experts who can answer questions and promote dialog.

The Mississippi County Library System (MCLS) encourages all community members to attend these Mental Health Conversations. Questions, comments, and challenges are welcomed as we strive to work together to destigmatize mental health diagnoses and treatment.

Since 2014, ALA’s Libraries Transforming Communities initiative has re-imagined the role libraries play in supporting communities. Libraries of all types have utilized free dialogue and deliberation training and resources to lead community and campus forums; take part in anti-violence activities; provide a space for residents to come together and discuss challenging topics; and have productive conversations with civic leaders, library trustees and staff.

“Libraries Transforming Communities: Focus on Small and Rural Libraries is an initiative of the American Library Association (ALA) in collaboration with the Association for Rural and Small Libraries (ARSL).”

If you are interested in getting involved or taking part in the Mental Health Conversations, please contact Beth Roberts at More information will be available soon at the Blytheville Library, or online via and our social media pages.

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