On 17 February 2016, Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, guest-edited The Huffington Post to launch Young Minds Matter.
This is an extract from an article on Mindfulness in Schools, published as part of that series, written by Poorna Bell:
'...Since most mental health issues in adults first emerge when they are children, could mindfulness be used – as well as other tools – to help bolster children’s coping mechanisms, how they relate to each other and, in turn, how they relate to themselves?
As emeritus professor of clinical psychology at the University of Oxford and director of the pioneering Oxford Mindfulness Centre until his retirement in 2013, Dr Williams has been at the forefront of research into its potential.
He is conducting a study called Myriad, across 76 schools and involving up to 5,000 students. It is one of the largest studies of its type.
The study focuses on 11-year-olds because, Dr Williams says, "mental health difficulties really kick in at the age of adolescence – that’s when children who perhaps have been struggling a bit but who have managed before suddenly find that they can’t manage".
He adds: "They get an adult-like problem, an adult-like anxiety or adult-like depression. Even earlier than that attention problems start and one of the things about kids is that they don’t recognise they have a problem, so they don’t seek help."
Children’s mental health – and, here, we are not just referring to illness but also mental wellbeing – is at crisis point and figuring out how we address this could be critical to prevention in adulthood.
One of the nice things about mindfulness is it’s not a treatment as such, it’s a mental skills training for the mind and we know it affects wellbeing, we know it reduces depression, but that’s a by-product. It’s a by-product of being able to learn with some stability, how to focus in the face of some very big external distractors – that we all have even as adults - but also internal ones such as telling yourself 'you’re stupid, that you’re no good, you don’t make friends' and so on.
- Dr Mark Williams
Even the bean-counters should be impressed by how much money would be saved by investing in supportive, preventative services in children against the fortunes spent firefighting mental illness in adults.
Tim Loughton, MP for Shoreham and East Worthing and co-chair of the Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group, said there were "good, financial imperatives for the government to act" particularly since the numbers of 16-year-olds diagnosed with depression has doubled.
His wish is that practices such as mindfulness become the mainstream, not the add-on.
Of course, mindfulness can’t 'fix' things. Teachers and practitioners are keen to point out it is intended as a support, not a replacement for other types of therapy or medicine...'
Read the full article in Huffington Post here.
Read more about the Myriad Project
Read more about #YoungMindsMatter