Schools of thought: can mindfulness lessons boost child mental health?

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Children are under increasing pressure. Investing in their mental wellbeing could could help them now and in the future, says article in the Guardian.

Mindfulness lessons are quickly growing in popularity as an antidote to the stress of being a young person in the 21st century, be it pressure to perform in exams, social media, or the obsession with body image that is reported to even affect primary age children.

Children are learning about their brains and how to deal with unruly thoughts – to control emotions such as anger and fear. It is no longer head, shoulders, knees and toes, but amygdala, hippocampus and prefrontal cortex.

The most recent NHS survey of young people’s mental health in 2017 shows one-in-eight five- to 19-year-olds in England has a diagnosable mental health condition. Hospital admissions for anorexia alone more than doubled in the eight years to 2017/18.

Stress is a known barrier to learning and a growing number of schools are targeting the emotional health of pupils through schemes such as meditation, mindfulness and the provision of mental health first aiders and buddies.

Teachers at Cherry Tree primary school in Basildon, Essex, say mindfulness lessons are already making a difference.

“Children aged eight to 10 in four classes do different exercises for 10 minutes after lunch each day,” says school pastoral leader Kim Milsom. “Children have told us that mindfulness helps to calm them down and that they use it at home as well.”

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