Impact of mindfulness on mental health in children and young people

Mindfulness would appear to be helpful in addressing youth mental health difficulties, echoing its demonstrable success with adults (Baer 2006; Ma and Teas- dale 2004). Although the impacts of any particular intervention are not guaranteed, both targeted and universal interventions have generally had at least a modest impact on mental health problems in the young. Indeed, mindfulness interventions appear to have had the most impact in both adults and young people in addressing such problems. The recent meta-analysis by Zoog- man et al. (2015) of 20 studies concluded that both targeted and universal interventions had twice the effect on “psychological symptoms” compared to other outcomes measured by studies of mindfulness interventions for youth, such as well-being or learning.

This impact on mental health is welcome, as the level of problems is alarming and increasing, running currently at about 25% of young people with an identifiable disorder and 10% needing specialist treatment (UK estimate by the Mental Health Foundation 2014). Such figures probably represent the tip of the iceberg, as most young people with mental health problems remain untreated. In the wider population, problems such as anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, self-harm, bullying, and stress are widespread, with serious impacts on wellbeing and quality of life. Even low-level mental health problems can disrupt thinking, undermine enjoyment of life, hinder learning, and diminish school performance (Barnes et al. 2003), a state that has been termed ‘languishing’ (Keyes 2002).

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