Mindfulness instruction relieves mental/behavioral health problems

March 1, 2016

Mindfulness instruction improved psychological functioning and reduced posttraumatic stress symptoms in low-income, minority, middle school students, a trial in 2 Baltimore City Public Schools showed.

Mindfulness instruction improved psychological functioning and reduced posttraumatic stress symptoms in low-income, minority middle school students, a trial in 2 Baltimore City Public Schools showed. The 300 5th-grade to 8th-grade participants-almost all African Americans and eligible for free lunches--were assigned to either a mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program or to a health education program (Healthy Topics [HT]), which focused on overall student wellness.

The MBSR program,consists of: material related to mindfulness, meditation, yoga, and mind/body connection; mindfulness meditations, mindful yoga, and body awareness; and group discussion about applying mindfulness to everyday situations. In the HT control program, students learn about topics such as nutrition, exercise, body systems, adolescence, and puberty.

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At baseline and after completion of the 12-week programs, investigators compared mindfulness, psychological symptoms, mood and emotion regulation, coping, and posttraumatic symptoms in the 2 groups. The MBSR participants showed lower levels of both depressive symptoms and posttraumatic symptoms (Sibinga EM, et al. Pediatrics. 2016;137[1]:e20152532).

Commentary: This was a carefully planned and implemented in-school program that required buy-in from teachers and school administrators, all of whom must constantly juggle competing demands. However, the results showed that the juggling was worthwhile. Middle school children who underwent mindfulness training emerged with skills to help them safely navigate high school and the neighborhoods where they live. -Michael G Burke, MD 

Ms Freedman is a freelance medical editor and writer in New Jersey. Dr Burke, section editor for Journal Club, is chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at Saint Agnes Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland. The editors have nothing to disclose in regard to affiliations with or financial interests in any organizations that may have an interest in any part of this article.