Mindfulness in Schools

Mindfulness coping strategies helped students deal with the stress of exam week

(RxWiki News) Teaching kids how to cope with the everyday stress of school and life may promote emotional well-being. Mindfulness coping strategies may also work to reduce depression.

A recent study tested the effectiveness of mindfulness coping strategies on adolescent students.

The results of the study showed that kids who learned mindfulness techniques had lower stress and depression scores and a better sense of emotional well-being compared to kids that did not learn mindfulness.

"Ask a therapist about mindfulness strategies."

Willem Kuyken, PhD, professor of clinical psychology at the University of Exeter in the UK, worked with a team of fellow researchers to test the use of a mindfulness mental health therapy to help school-aged kids cope with stress.

"Mindfulness involves learning to direct attention to immediate experience, moment by moment, with open-minded curiosity and acceptance," the study authors wrote.

"The intention is that when young people use mindfulness to work with mental states, everyday life and stressors this will cultivate well-being and promote mental health," they wrote.

The Mindfulness in Schools Programme (MiSP) was developed over the course of four years for all types of children and adolescents: those with mental health difficulties, mental and emotional stress, no mental health problems and those who have been doing very well in school.

The MiSP program was designed to provide kids with positive coping and emotional balancing techniques to use while in school with the hope that these strategies would carry over into adulthood.

For this study, specially trained teachers taught the MiSP in their classrooms of adolescents between 12 and 16 years of age over nine weeks. The teachers were trained on how to use the MiSP for an average of one to two years before teaching it in the classroom.

During the end of the year exams, three months after finishing the MiSP, 256 kids from 12 schools were assessed for well-being and mental health, and then were compared to 266 kids in the same schools that did not participate in the MiSP.

Well-being was assessed on a scale from 14 to 70, with 14 representing low well-being and 70 representing high well-being.

Mental health was assessed using the Perceived Stress Scale, with a low-high score range between 0 and 40, and a depression scale with a low-high score range between 8 and 40.

Before starting the program, kids in the MiSP group scored 48.6 on the well-being scale, 17.5 on the stress scale and 15.1 on the depression scale.

Kids in the comparison group scored, on average, 50.0 on the well-being scale, 16.3 on the stress scale and 14.9 on the depression scale.

After finishing the program, kids in the MiSP group scored 50.1 on the well-being scale, 17.4 on the stress scale and 14.3 on the depression scale. These results showed an improved sense of well-being, roughly similar levels of stress and a reduction in depression for the mindfulness students. 

Kids in the control group scored 48.8 on the well-being scale, 16.8 on the stress scale and 15.4 on the depression scale.

During the end of year exams, three months after finishing the program, kids in the MiSP group scored 50.0 on the well-being scale, 17.1 on the stress scale and 14.6 on the depression scale.

Kids in the control group scored 48.7 on the well-being scale, 17.7 on the stress scale and 15.6 on the depression scale. Compared to kids in the MiSP group, kids in the control group had a lower sense of well-being, higher levels of stress and higher levels of depression during their end of year exams. 

The study authors concluded that the MiSP was effective in teaching kids how to cope with stress and in promoting well-being. The study authors wrote they believed the MiSP to be feasible and cost effective to implement.

This study was published in June in The British Journal of Psychiatry.

The National Institutes of Health Research and Peninsula Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care helped to support funding for this project. No conflicts of interest were reported.

Review Date: 
June 19, 2013