Mindfulness and relationship building to improve mental health in children and young people.
The 16th – 22nd May 2016 is Mental Health Awareness Week, and the theme this year is relationships. One of the most important places children and young people (CYP) develop relationships is in schools – with fellow pupils and school staff, and the Department of Education advises that schools have a role to play in keeping pupils ‘resilient and mentally healthy’.1
In January, we announced that we had received funding from Yorkshire and Humber Academic Health Science Network (YAHSN) to deliver a creative mindfulness programme for CYP in schools with our partner One day Creative. Studies have shown that structured mindfulness interventions have a beneficial impact on a range of wellbeing indicators in school children;2 our programme aimed to promote positive mental health in CYP, whilst enabling school staff to identify emotional disorders and behavioural issues.
Mednet have recently completed an evaluation of a pilot of the mindfulness programme with year 4 pupils at Little London Primary School, Leeds. The programme comprised of creative drama-based mindfulness workshops, supported by a dynamic and fully interactive digital toolkit. The toolkit assessed children’s mindfulness and mental wellbeing before and after the workshops, with the output data enabling school staff to identify emotional difficulties, conduct problems, hyperactivity, peer relationship problems, and/ or prosocial behaviour.
The pilot results clearly indicate a positive change in the level of pupil’s mindfulness, measured through the CAMM3 measure, whilst distinctly identifying emotional and behavioural issues through an SDQ4 questionnaire using a three-band categorisation – normal, borderline, abnormal. Furthermore, a correlation analysis performed between the mindfulness measure and the emotional and behavioural functioning indicated a higher level of mindfulness corresponding to a lower level of emotional disorders. Overall, the efficacy of the mindfulness workshops and digital toolkit has demonstrated clear benefits to the mental health of pupils, through increased mindfulness and rapid identification of emotional or behavioural issues by school staff, which can facilitate discussions with parents or referral to further services.
The feedback we received from the school staff is excellent, stating the workshops were delivered with ‘brilliant energy’, the digital toolkit with ‘fruit’ log-ins for pupils created ‘great excitement’, and there were ‘very high levels of engagement’.
“As a teacher I found the project very interesting and can definitely see how children benefit in a positive way, in and out of school, from exploring the sensory techniques and ideas for themselves.”
We are looking forward to incorporating future considerations to develop the programme further in a scalable model, to benefit the mental health and wellbeing of more children and young people.
- Weare K. Evidence for the Impact of Mindfulness on Children and Young People. Emeritus Professor, Universities of Exeter and Southampton. April 2012
- CAMM – Child and adolescent mindfulness measure
- SDQ – Strengths and difficulties questionnaire