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World Book Day 2018: Reading for Mental Health and Roald Dahl the Inventor

On 1st March 2018 it’s the 21st World Book Day. You might be wondering why that matters to an online pharmacy, but the truth is that reading can be a great way to boost your mental health. And regardless of whether or not you agree with the Books On Prescription initiative, reading for pleasure is definitely a positive thing for mental health.

How Reading Is Good For Your Health

Reading is a great way to relax and reduce stress. Research has found that as little as six minutes spent reading can reduce stress levels by 68%. It also works more quickly than other relaxation methods like listening to music, going for a walk, or sitting down with a hot drink.

The Reading Agency has also found that reading for pleasure can reduce symptoms of depression, increase empathy, improve relationships with others and improve your general wellbeing. But this only applies if you already enjoy reading and are happy to spend time doing it; if you are reading because you feel like you should be reading, it won’t have the same positive effects

Reading for pleasure is a form of escapism. It helps you forget what’s going on in your life and become absorbed by what’s going on in the book. There’s a reason people say they get lost in a book!

Why Not Revisit A Childhood Favourite?

One of our most-loved authors was born in the same city as Instant eCare is based. Roald Dahl, author of the BFG, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and George’s Marvellous Medicine (to name just a few) was born right here in Cardiff on 13th September 1916.

We’ve decided to highlight Roald Dahl this World Book Day for several reasons. Aside from being born in Cardiff, his books are childhood favourites for so many. He wrote such a wide range of entertaining and memorable stories that everyone has a favourite. Why not revisit one of yours?

World Book Day 2018: Reading for Mental Health and Roald Dahl the Inventor

One of our favourites is George’s Marvellous Medicine, in which George Kranky decides to make his miserable Grandma a medicine that no doctor has seen before. Obviously it goes without saying that we don’t recommend trying this at home, but this book highlights Dahl’s wicked sense of humour. He even included a dedication in the initial hardback version of the book saying “This book is for doctors everywhere”.  

And Roald Dahl actually had a more significant connection to medicine than many people realise.

Dahl’s Connections To The World Of Medicine

Dahl once said that if he wasn’t a writer, he would have wanted to be a doctor. He had connections to medicine throughout his life, from numerous family emergencies and tragedies to helping with the invention of a piece of medical equipment that went on to help thousands of people.

Dahl was no stranger to hospitals. He was a pilot during World War 2 and in September 1940, his plane crashed in north Africa. He ended up with several serious injuries to his head and back, and spent 6 months recovering in the Anglo-Swiss Hospital in Alexandria, Egypt.

He later spent time caring for his young daughter Olivia who had measles. This later developed into measles encephalitis and she died in 1962 at the age of 7. This was followed by Dahl’s wife Patricia Neal suffering three strokes in 1965 whilst she was pregnant with their fifth child, Lucy. Roald worked out a rota of volunteer carers who could keep conversation going with Patricia to help her speech recovery.

And between the years of 1960 and 1962 Dahl was overseeing the invention of a new piece of medical equipment to help the recovery of his baby son Theo.

The Wade-Dahl-Till Valve

The invention of the Wade-Dahl-Till valve began in 1960 when Dahl’s 5-month-old son Theo was involved in a serious accident with a taxi in New York. Theo’s skull was crushed and as a result of this he had hydrocephalus. Hydrocephalus is also known as “water on the brain” and is when fluid builds up in the head. It can put pressure on the brain, leaving the patient at risk of brain damage.

The fluid needs to be drained regularly, and before the invention of the Wade-Dahl-Till valve, a Holter Shunt was used. The issue with this is that it could get clogged, especially if the patient was experiencing bleeding like Theo Dahl. If the Holter Shunt became clogged, it caused pain and blindness and didn’t drain as it should do.

Dahl was very involved in his son’s aftercare following the accident and decided there must be a better way to deal with the fluid accumulating in Theo’s head than the unreliable Holter Shunt. The Wade-Dahl-Till valve was a collaborative effort between the hydraulic engineer Stanley Wade, neurosurgeon Kenneth Till and Roald Dahl.

By the time the new valve was ready, Theo was well enough that he no longer needed it. However several thousand other children benefited from the invention before medical technology moved beyond it.

So why not take a little time out for yourself this World Book Day? Whether you choose an old favourite or a novel by an author you’ve never tried before, spend some time getting lost in a book and feel yourself relax!

World Book Day 2018: Reading for Mental Health and Roald Dahl the Inventor