A Wellcome Trust funded study will assess the effectiveness of teaching mindfulness in UK schools. The £6.4 million project will be carried out by teams at Oxford, UCL and the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge, in collaboration with the University of Exeter, over seven years. Teenage years are a vulnerable time in terms of onset of mental illness, with over 75% of mental disorders beginning before the age of 24 and half by the age of 15.
The programme is based on the theory that, just as physical training is associated with improved physical health, psychological resilience training is associated with better mental health outcomes. By promoting good mental health and intervening early, i.e. in crucial teenage years, researchers are seeking to understand whether they can build young people’s resilience and help to prevent mental illness developing.
Willem Kuyken, Director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, said: “What this project is trying to establish is whether teaching teenagers mindfulness techniques can improve their attention and resilience, two key skills for maintaining good mental health. We are launching a programme of research to find out how best to support the resilience and well-being of 11 to 14 year olds, working with teachers and young people in mainstream schools. We are interested in the full range of outcomes, including social relationships, school attendance and attainment, as well at teacher well-being and school culture.”