"Mindfulness in Schools - as important as sport and as
politically relevant as health"
16 May 2016
If we are going to successfully tackle the big rise in mental health problems, then we must start in childhood. Half of all mental health problems have begun by the age of 14, and three children in every classroom now have a diagnosable condition, such as anxiety or depression.
But while the number of children and young people experiencing mental health problems has increased in recent years, ‘early intervention’ services based in the community have been scaled back as a result of cuts to council budgets. These services perform a vital role in preventing emerging mental health problems from developing into more serious conditions. But without them, problems can go untreated, which increases the pressure on specialist NHS services further down the line.
"Now is the time to be innovative, look at what's working and act. It's time to start piloting mindfulness in our schools, and measure its success."
Mindful Nation UK Launched in Parliament, 20th October 2015
"encourage the flourishing and wellbeing of a healthy nation."
"Mindfulness is one of the most promising prevention strategies."
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, one of three ministers at the launch, supported the creation of an education policy that acknowledged the long term importance of wellbeing.
She said: "I want to make it very clear that of course academic achievement is important, but so too is turning out well-balanced young people who are able to fulfil all of their potential. I'm not just on this stage [saying this] as Secretary for Education, but also as a mother and also somebody who has had family experience of mental ill health. It's really a no brainer for me."
The All-Party Group’s recommendations are practical, based on a summary of existing evidence for mindfulness:
In Health, it recommends expanding the opportunity for people who experience recurrent depression to take a course of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), as well as funding the training of competent teachers to deliver those courses.
In Education, it recommends designating schools to pioneer the further development of mindfulness training for teachers and young people.
In the Workplace, it urges government departments to take a lead by training their own staff in mindfulness, and encouraging examples of best practice and quality research.
And in the Criminal Justice System, it invites consideration to be given to offering mindfulness training to offenders with depression.
The Report is available here: www.themindfulnessinitiative.org.uk/mindful-nation-uk
ACTION POINT 6. MEASUREMENT:
Schools should measure pupil wellbeing regularly. Schools need an ethos that promotes children’s wellbeing and identifies children who are languishing; but they should also devote at least an hour a week to education in life skills. Children and young people need to learn how to understand and manage their own emotions, understand others and care for them, manage their sexual relationships responsibly, eat and drink sensibly and avoid drugs, understand mental disorders and what can be done about them, understand parenting, manage their responses to modern media and choose positive life goals. There are now hundreds of programs that have been developed worldwide to address one or more of these issues. Many of these programs have been rigorously evaluated on the whole age cohort in a school and been found to produce good results, at least in the short run. This was the finding of Durlak et al that we quoted earlier,67 and it related to impacts in the first six months after the programs ended. But, in the few cases where children have been followed up over a longer period, the effects have often been found to fade over time and, in many cases, to disappear.68 This is not surprising given that the programs typically average 20 hours. We should also note that many quite famous programs have had at least one trial which found no effects.69
This leads to two important conclusions. First, if children are to develop good life skills, they need more than one or two 20-hour programs: they need a whole curriculum of life skills, at least once a week throughout the school life. As Aristotle observed, good habits are learned through interesting repetition in varying contexts. Second, this curriculum should be evidence-based and depend as little as possible on inspired improvisation by the teacher. It is universally found that the best results follow from using detailed materials accompanied by a good manual on how to use them and some explicit training of the teachers70 (this is not so different from what is needed for a good surgical operation.) And the best results always come from offering a positive vision rather than warnings about what not to do.
On Friday 25 September 2015 the United Nations marked its 70th anniversary with the largest gathering ever of world leaders Prime ministers, Presidents and the Pope in New York and launched the 2030 Global Goals SDG Agenda. With Global Goals London we are exploring the role of Mindfulness in the SDGs.