Kuyken, W., et al. (2013). British Journal of Psychiatry. A student participating in the UK-based Mindfulness in Schools Program (MiSP).© Mindfulness in Schools Programme
What did they study?
The acceptability and effectiveness of a British program for students ages 12 to 16 called the Mindfulness in Schools Program (MiSP). The MiSP curriculum consists of nine scripted mindfulness lessons, delivered weekly by trained classroom teachers. In this study, involving over 500 kids total, six schools receiving the MiSP program—and whose teachers had already been trained in the program—were matched with six similar schools where teachers had expressed interest in mindfulness but had not been trained in MiSP.
What did they find?
Compared to students in the non-MiSP schools, MiSP students reported significantly decreased depression symptoms immediately after the end of the program. In follow-up surveys conducted three months after the program ended, during the stressful summer exam period, MiSP students reported significantly less stress and symptoms of depression and significantly greater well-being compared to their non-MiSP counterparts. Also, the more frequently students reported using mindfulness practices, the better their scores were. These results indicate that the MiSP, and mindfulness in general, shows promise as a tool to bolster adolescent mental health, and possibly their academic achievement as well.
Although much of this research is in its early stages and the conclusions we can draw from it so far are limited, these four studies, conducted in different locations and with diverse types of students, suggest the great potential of mindfulness programs to improve the well-being of children and adolescents. Ideally, these and other researchers will next develop even more rigorous studies, comparing groups of students who are randomly assigned to participate in a mindfulness program with those randomly assigned to a group that doesn’t receive the training. In the meantime, educators who are interested in mindfulness have many programs to choose from and an increasing amount of research to support their enthusiasm.