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Mindfulness Training at School Reduces Depression in Teenagers

Mindfulness Training at School Reduces Depression in Teenagers
A study http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs12671-013-0202-1#page-1 published last month in Mindfulness Journal , found that a mindfulness program integrated into school hours, can prevent and reduce symptoms of clinical depression in high school students.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness, as described by the researchers, refers to a “compassionate and nonjudgmental moment-to-moment awareness of one's experiences.”  Jon Kabat-Zinn , Professor Emeritus of Medicine and founding director of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School 
describes mindfulness as: paying attention, in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally. (http://www.happychild.com.au/articles/using-mindfulness-for-teacher-well...).  Mindfulness-based approaches to the treatment of physical and emotional complaints in adults have generally been effective in reducing symptoms of illnesses such as anxiety and depression and have been found to increase health and wellbeing, but until now, there have been limited significant studies of mindfulness’ effects on children and adolescents.  ‘Acceptance and Commitment Therapy’ (ACT) is an example of an evidence-based mindfulness therapy that has been shown to be as effective as the more traditional Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for conditions such as anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder; ACT teaches mindfulness as a skill, teaches people to foucs on goals and values and is an approach that aims to transform a person’s  relationship with their difficult thoughts so they can see them as harmless. 
Mindfulness in the High School Classroom
Lead by Dr Filip Raes from the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, University of Leuven in Belgium http://ppw.kuleuven.be/english/clep/People/fr  the researchers  targeted teenagers in high school years nine to twelve at the age when the onset of first major depressive episodes is most often recorded;  five schools in Belgium participated, with a total number of 408 children.
Students receiving the mindfulness program  attended a 100 minute session during school hours for eight  weeks, replacing religious studies, physical education, or another academic course, depending on the class timetable; the control group followed their regular school program.
Delivered by experienced mindfulness trainers, teenagers in the intervention group participated in guided experiential mindfulness exercises (for example, mindfulness of breathing, breathing space, body scan), shared and reflected on their experience of these exercises and received information about stress, depression and self-care. The students were given homework assignments of fifteen minutes of mindfulness practice each day, suggested reading, and weekly tips on how to bring mindfulness into daily life. 
Depression Symptoms Reduced by Mindfulness
All 408 participants completed a self-report questionnaire identifying clinical depression symptoms at three points in the study - before, immediately after, and six months afterwards.  The researchers found that six months after the study, the mindfulness students with clinical depression symptoms showed significantly greater reductions in depression compared to their control group peers.  While new cases of depression were noted in both the intervention and control groups immediately after the study, there was a significantly smaller percentage of new cases in the mindfulness intervention group.  
Despite the noted limitations of the study – a disproportionately high percentage
of females versus males, and use of a self-report not a clinician-administered interview for assessment of depression, the researchers are optimistic about their findings, saying the  evidence supports  that school-based mindfulness programs having a “curative and preventive effect” in adolescents. 
If you are using mindfulness in your classroom we would be interested to hear from you, please Contact us or leave a comment below.

A study published last month in the Mindfulness Journal, found that a mindfulness program integrated into school hours, can prevent and reduce symptoms of clinical depression in high school students.

What is Mindfulness?

The researchers described mindfulness as a “compassionate and nonjudgmental moment-to-moment awareness of one's experiences.”  Jon Kabat-Zinn, Professor Emeritus of Medicine and founding director of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School describes mindfulness as: paying attention, in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally. 

Mindfulness-based approaches to the treatment of physical and emotional complaints in adults have generally been effective in reducing symptoms of illnesses such as anxiety and depression and have been found to increase health and wellbeing, but until now, there have been limited significant studies of mindfulness’ effects on children and adolescents.  ‘Acceptance and Commitment Therapy’ (ACT) is an example of an evidence-based mindfulness therapy that has been shown to be as effective as the more traditional Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for conditions such as anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder; ACT teaches mindfulness as a skill, teaches people to focus on goals and values and is an approach that aims to transform a person’s  relationship with their difficult thoughts so they can see them as harmless.

Mindfulness in the High School Classroom

Lead by Dr Filip Raes from the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, University of Leuven in Belgium, the researchers  targeted teenagers in high school years nine to twelve at the age when the onset of first major depressive episodes is most often recorded;  five schools in Belgium participated, with a total number of 408 children.

Students receiving the mindfulness program attended a 100 minute session during school hours for eight  weeks, replacing religious studies, physical education, or another academic course, depending on the class timetable; the control group followed their regular school program.

Delivered by experienced mindfulness trainers, teenagers in the intervention group participated in guided experiential mindfulness exercises (for example, mindfulness of breathing, breathing space, body scan), shared and reflected on their experience of these exercises and received information about stress, depression and self-care. The students were given homework assignments of fifteen minutes of mindfulness practice each day, suggested reading, and weekly tips on how to bring mindfulness into daily life.

Depression Symptoms Reduced by Mindfulness

All 408 participants completed a self-report questionnaire identifying clinical depression symptoms at three points in the study - before, immediately after, and six months afterwards.  The researchers found that six months after the study, the mindfulness students with clinical depression symptoms showed significantly greater reductions in depression compared to their control group peers.  While new cases of depression were noted in both the intervention and control groups immediately after the study, there was a significantly smaller percentage of new cases in the mindfulness intervention group. 

Despite the noted limitations of the study – a disproportionately high percentageof females versus males, and use of a self-report not a clinician-administered interview for assessment of depression - the researchers are optimistic about their findings, saying the evidence indicates school-based mindfulness programs have a “curative and preventive effect” in adolescents.

If you are using mindfulness in your classroom we would be interested to hear from you, please Contact us or leave a comment below.

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