Should mindfulness be taught in classrooms? Many schools seem to believe so and are beginning to introduce this new subject into their daily curriculum. The recent additions of mindfulness into these classrooms are happening, by large, in order to further a psychological study on the subject. For example, in up to 370 English schools, students will start to practice mindfulness as part of a large-scale study meant to improve youth mental health.
In one of the largest studies of its kind, England will begin to teach students in up to 370 schools breathing techniques, anxiety-reduction techniques, and other mindfulness skills. The study will last until 2021. Children, as the subjects of the study, will start to be introduced gradually to issues around mental health, well-being and happiness right from the start of primary school.
The initiative comes months after a survey commissioned by the National Health Service found that one in eight children in England between the ages of 5 and 19 suffered from at least one mental disorder at the time of their assessments in 2017. Disorders such as anxiety and depression were the most common, affecting one in 12 children and early adolescents in 2017. Anxiety and depression also appeared more often in girls.
Imran Hussain, the director of policy and campaigns for Action for Children, a British charity in the United Kingdom, called it a “children’s mental health crisis.”
“Every day, our front-line services see children and teenagers struggling to get to grips with how they fit into the increasingly complex modern world — contending with things like intense pressure at school, bullying or problems at home, all while being bombarded by social media,” he said in a statement last Monday.
Services like these can lessen the anxiety, pain and anguish that some teens go through and also reduce their need for intensive support further down the line. The study includes several tactics, including training teachers to hold role-playing exercises, teaching relaxation practices and inviting professionals into the classroom for group discussions.
Some people don’t like the idea. They believe that the study focuses too much on how to handle these problems rather than how to negate or completely remove them. But the heads of the studies believe that this view is short-sighted. Dr. Jessica Deighton, for instance, an associate professor in child mental health and well-being at University College London who is leading the government trials, said that the new initiative was intended to offer more than quick fixes.
“There is a tendency to think that the solution is mental health intervention,” she said last Monday. “We will try to reduce the stigma against mental health problems by making the school environment literate in mental health.”
Will mindfulness be a helpful tool against adolescent anxieties and depression? This is the question that the large-scale study out of England will aim to answer from now through 2021. If the study is a success, seeing as it is one of the largest-ever conducted in the world, perhaps the United States will begin to introduce more mindfulness practices into their school classrooms. On the other hand, if the study fails in any way, it may do a bit to discredit the work of mindfulness. But only time will tell.
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