Award scheme recognises schools building better mental health

An NCB survey in 2016 showed the rising number of pupils suffering from mental health issues – now NCB is developing a Wellbeing Award for Schools.

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From September 2017, a new Wellbeing Award for Schools, presented by the National Children’s Bureau (NCB) and Optimus Education Ltd (part of Prospects Services Group), will recognise outstanding work being done to promote mental health and wellbeing within school communities across England.

This new award will recognise schools that embed a culture which values the happiness and emotional welfare of all its pupils. Both the Department for Education and Ofsted have supported this approach, stressing that promoting good mental health is the responsibility of all members of a school community: its staff and governors, parents and pupils, and partner organisations beyond the school gates.

The Wellbeing Award supports schools to create a culture in which mental health can thrive, helping them to:

  • Show the school’s commitment to promoting wellbeing as part of day-to-day school life
  • Develop a whole school strategy for improving the wellbeing of pupils
  • Attract and retain high-quality staff.

Full details available here

Integrating Mindfulness into Family Therapy with Adolescents

Individual and group-based psychotherapeutic interventions increasingly incorporate mindfulness-based principles and practices | Family Process

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These practices include a versatile set of skills such as labeling and attending to present-moment experiences, acting with awareness, and avoiding automatic reactivity. A primary motivation for integrating mindfulness into these therapies is compelling evidence that it enhances emotion regulation. Research also demonstrates that family relationships have a profound influence on emotion regulation capacities, which are central to family functioning and prosocial behavior more broadly. Despite this evidence, no framework exists to describe how mindfulness might integrate into family therapy.

This paper describes the benefits of mindfulness-based interventions, highlighting how and why informal mindfulness practices might enhance emotion regulation when integrated with family therapy. We provide a clinical framework for integrating mindfulness into family therapy, particularly as it applies to families with adolescents. A brief case example details sample methods showing how incorporating mindfulness practices into family therapy may enhance treatment outcomes. A range of assessment modalities from biological to behavioral demonstrates the breadth with which the benefits of a family-based mindfulness intervention might be evaluated.

Full reference: Brody, J.L. et al. (2017) A Conceptual Model and Clinical Framework for Integrating Mindfulness into Family Therapy with Adolescents.  Family Process. Published online: 7 June 2017

Digital technology and adolescent conduct problems

Adolescents spend an unprecedented amount of time using digital technology to access the Internet and engage with social media. There is concern that this continuous connectivity could increase their mental health symptoms, especially for at-risk adolescents. | Journal of Pediatric Nursing

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A new US study has reported that on days that at-risk adolescents used technology more, they experienced more conduct problems and higher attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms compared to days when they used digital technologies less.

However, the study also found that on days when adolescents spent more time using digital technologies they were less likely to report symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Key findings:

•Daily digital technology use by at-risk adolescents is associated with worse mental health symptoms.
•Higher levels of digital technology use were associated with increases in next-day conduct problems.
•Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms increased with increased digital technology use.
•When adolescents spent more time using digital technologies they reported fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Full reference: McBride, Deborah L. Daily Digital Technology Use Linked to Mental Health Symptoms for High-risk Adolescents. Journal of Pediatric Nursing: Nursing Care of Children and Families. Published online 7th June 2017

How mental health can be affected at various stages of development

Children’s mental health will be affected by different factors and in different ways as they develop. Here, the Centre for Mental Health summarises  some of these key factors, taken from their report Missed Opportunities.

0-4 years

Good mental health, wellbeing and cognitive development in under five year olds is shaped very early on from the first spark of life in the womb and is affected by multiple complex genetic and environmental factors.

5-10 years

Schools are the biggest single influence on a child’s mental health after their family. Schools can either enhance or undermine a child’s mental health and it is essential they know how to help.

11-15 years

Adolescence is a period of significant neurodevelopmental change for most children. While adolescence and early adulthood are a period of our best physical health, it is also the peak period for the development of mental health problems.

16-25 years

75% of adults with a diagnosable mental health problem will have experienced their first symptoms by the age of 24. Evidence shows that common mental health conditions that first emerge in adolescence have a higher chance of persistence into young adult years if not quickly treated and contained.

More detail at Centre for Mental Health

Relationship Between Mindfulness and Non-Suicidal Self-Injury

This research explored whether lack of mindfulness or problems in mindfulness are involved in self-injury.

Non-suicidal self-injury is a complex behaviour, disturbingly prevalent, difficult to treat and with possible adverse outcomes in the long term. Previous research has shown individuals most commonly self-injure to cope with overwhelming negative emotions. Mindfulness has been shown to be associated with emotion regulation, and mindfulness-based interventions have shown effectiveness in a wide range of psychological disorders.

Pairwise comparisons revealed current self-injurers reported significantly lower mindfulness than past self-injurers and non-self-injurers, with medium effect sizes of d = 0.51 and d = 0.77, respectively. In logistic regression, low mindfulness significantly predicted self-injury (B = 0.04, p < .001). These findings have clinical implications, suggesting that mindfulness-based interventions may assist individuals to give up self-injurious behaviours and may be an important part of prevention strategies.

Full reference: Caltabiano, G. & Martin, G. (2017) Mindless Suffering: the Relationship Between Mindfulness and Non-Suicidal Self-Injury. Mindfulness. 8(788)

School-Based Mindfulness Program and Depression in Adolescents

This study examined moderators of the effects of a universal school-based mindfulness program on adolescents’ depressive symptoms.

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Based on theory and previous research, we identified the following potential moderators:

  1. severity of symptoms of depression at baseline
  2. gender
  3. age
  4. school track.

The study uses a pooled dataset from two consecutive randomized controlled trials in adolescents (13–18 years) in secondary schools in Belgium.

We found no moderation effects of gender, age, and school track. Six months after the training, we found a marginally significant moderation effect for severity of symptoms of depression at baseline with greater decrease in symptoms for students with high levels of depression. The general absence of differential intervention effects for gender, age, and school track supports the broad scope of the school-based mindfulness group intervention.

Full reference: der Gucht, K.V. et al. (2017) Potential Moderators of the Effects of a School-Based Mindfulness Program on Symptoms of Depression in Adolescents. Mindfulness. 8(797)

Mindfulness-Based Intervention for Parents of Children with Autism

Parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) frequently report poor psychological well-being.

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The purpose of this study was to examine the effectiveness of brief mindfulness-based intervention (MBI) on perceived stress, anxiety, and depression among parents of children with ASD in Jordan.

After the intervention program, the one-way analyses of covariance (ANCOVA) indicated that parents in the intervention group had better outcomes on the measures of psychological well-being and mindfulness than those in the comparison group (P < 0.01). Furthermore, results of paired samples t test indicated that parents in the intervention group demonstrated significant improvements in measures of stress, anxiety, depression, and mindfulness scores with medium to large effect size (Cohen d between 0.42 and 0.85, P < 0.01).

Although the comparison group demonstrated small improvement in measures of the dependent variables, these improvements were much less than improvements in the intervention group. The MBIs are culturally adaptable, feasible, and effective interventions to improve psychological well-being in parents of children with ASD.

Full reference: Rayan, A. & Ahmad, M. (2017) Effectiveness of Mindfulness-Based Intervention on Perceived Stress, Anxiety, and Depression Among Parents of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Mindfulness. 8(677)