Monday, December 21, 2015

School-Based Mindfulness Program May Help Urban Children Deal With Negative Stress

Many urban youth are repeatedly exposed to significant negative stressors including violence, poverty, and substance use. A study published last week in Pediatrics suggests that a school-based mindfulness program may ameliorate some of the effects of these stressors and improve social and behavioral functioning.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine randomly assigned 300 middle school students (grades 5 through 8) from two Baltimore City Public Schools to participate in a 12-week mindfulness-based stress-reduction (MBSR) program or a standard health education program covering such topics as nutrition, exercise, and adolescence, during the regular school day.

After 12 weeks, the MBSR students reported significantly lower levels of depression, rumination, negative coping, self-hostility, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms than the students who had participated in the health education class.

Although the authors noted that additional studies are needed to explore the long-term effects of mindfulness-based programs, “[t]his trial provides convincing evidence that high-quality, school-based MBSR instruction for youth in urban public schools is feasible, acceptable, and leads to improvements in psychological symptoms, coping, and posttraumatic stress symptoms,” they wrote.

To read more about the potential value of mindfulness-based care, see the Psychiatric News article “Mindfulness, Relaxed Breathing Can Amplify Good Patient Care,” by Gary Weinstein, M.D.

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