Yesterday I held a debate on the idea of ‘mindfulness’ and I hope that in the future this can be adopted as part of a child’s education.
Childhood is a time for acquiring life skills alongside academic knowledge. Good schools teach young people how to keep their bodies fit, encouraging habits of regular exercise and healthy diet in order to promote good physical health throughout the life-span. Exercise is good for us – and we teach it to our children without hesitation. But as I insisted in the debate, of equal if not greater importance to a child’s long-term wellbeing behaviour, is the equivalent cultivation of good mental health. And that the training of attention is the foundation on which this cultivation rests.
Emphasis on attainment and educational standards is of course vital. But in a changing social climate of complex pressures and spiralling mental ill-health among young people, it is no longer quite enough. A robust solution to these endemic issues must be sought.
32.3% of 15-25 year olds are suffering from one or more mental health difficulties and in adults the use of anti-depressants has increased by over 500% in the past 20 years in the UK. This shows that mental health is a serious issue which needs to be addressed.
You may well be familiar by now with the case for mindfulness – the growing body of scientific evidence for its benefits to resilience, concentration, and the relief of anxiety to name but a few. It’s my firm belief that this evidence-based approach to mental wellbeing has a vital part to play in the way we prepare our children for life. After hearing different cases of mindfulness being successful, and having experienced a mindfulness course myself, I believe that it should be taught in schools. If teachers can go through a course of teaching mindfulness then hopefully they can pass this on to their pupils, and in turn improve their mental health. By improving people’s mental health when they are children, it is likely to reduce the potential of them having mental health issues when they are older.
The debate was very positive, with other MPs intervening and the Minister for Vulnerable Children and Families in agreement that mindfulness does seem to have been successful in places where it has been administered. The Minister even suggested going into a school to take part in a mindfulness course himself. Hopefully there is a future for this in our children’s education.