Planting seeds early
To help young people cope.
850,000 CHILDREN AGED 5-16 HAVE MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS
• Three children in every classroom have a diagnosable mental health disorder.
• Roughly 725,000 people in the UK suffer from Eating Disorders, 86% of these will have shown symptoms before the age of 19.[ii]
• One in 10 deliberately harm themselves regularly[iii] (and 15,000 of them are hospitalised each year because of this[iv])
• Nearly 80,000 children and young people suffer from severe depression[v]
• Half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14.[vi]
• 45% of children in care have a mental health disorder - these are some of the most vulnerable people in our society[vii]
• Nearly 300,000 young people in Britain have an anxiety disorder.[viii]
• 95% of imprisoned young offenders have a mental health disorder. Many of them are struggling with more than one disorder.[ix]
These statistics are upsetting and very real. Organisations such as Young Minds provide help and support for young people.
We need to do more.
Investing in services and support for young people at an early stage not only reduces misery and loneliness, but saves millions in future costs to the NHS, education, criminal justice and social care costs. There are many ways to support young people struggling out there, meditation and mindful practices are part of the solution.
I was encouraged by this news item about a school in Baltimore who send children to a mindful moment room for meditation instead of detention.
Holistic Me is an initiative that teaches children to practice mindful meditation and breathing exercises while encouraging them to talk to behavioural professionals. The programme works in partnership with a local non-profit called the Holistic Life Foundation'
The results have been great with suspensions totally dropping post these interventions.
At Robert W. Coleman, students are already attesting to these benefits at school and at home. “This morning I got mad at my Dad, but then I remembered to breathe and then I didn’t shout,” one fifth grader said.
Another noted: “I took deep breaths to stay calm and just finish the test. When everybody around you is making a lot of noises just trying to tune them out… and be yourself, do your breathing.”
For children to have training in meditation then have the support to maintain practice though college, university (if they followed that pathway) then in the workplace. Is that too big a dream?
I don't know why all schools don't have meditation as part of their daily school life?
In October, the Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group said the practice should be made more widely available and recommended the Department for Education designate three schools to "pioneer mindfulness teaching and disseminate best practice".
What is Mindfulness?
My definition of mindfulness is the practice of outer focused awareness, and meditation as the practice of inner focused awareness.
• The Oxford English Dictionary defines mindfulness as "quality or state of being conscious or aware of something"
• Rooted in Buddhist philosophies, where it is described as "the meditative state of being both fully aware of the moment and of being self-conscious of and attentive to this awareness; a state of intense concentration on one's own thought processes; self-awareness"
• Mindfulness has become popular in the West in recent years as a way of combating stress, anxiety and depression - the NHS lists it as one of the five steps to mental wellbeing
My own experince in school is teaching young children from Key Stage 4 - Years 10 to 11 - for pupils aged between 15 and 16 years old, and Key Stage 5 - Years 12 to 13 - for pupils aged between 17 and 18 years old.
At first I think the students were interested and perhaps a little skeptical, but then as they say the proof is in the pudding and when they saw their sense of inner peace grow and anxiety drop attendance to these option sessions grew.
We work with our relationship with our thoughts and see them as cloud in the sky acknowledging their presence if we get distracted from our practice and coming back to our breathe. The benefits of not being defined and being able to step away from busy thoughts is deeply empowering. Coming to a calm centre place through activating our parasympathetic nervous system to help our body feel safe and able to restore and relax is worth it's weight in gold.
Why isn't this in more schools?
Money and time.
For schools to gain adequate training and the space within an already packed curriculum is hard. What encouraging is that the government see the value now The Rt Hon Justine Greening MP can enable schools to implement this idea far and wide.
If you want mindfulness in your school, contact your head, the school governors to encourage them to trial this. We can help you too for more information get in touch