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Teach mindfulness in all Scottish schools - child & adolescent mental health is declining!

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The stresses on children and adolescents are at present greater than ever before. Our children can tell us the various merits of different operating systems for electronic devices, but are rarely in touch with how different emotions are experienced in the body, or how it feels to bring kindness to a moment of difficulty. In addition to the usual myriad of pressures they face as they develop, they are bombarded almost constantly with information at a rate that mankind even 50 years ago would have struggled to begin to comprehend.

Mental illness is at an all-time high; according to the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH), about 11 per cent of adolescents have a depressive disorder by age 18. Research indicates that one of every four adolescents will have an episode of major depression during high school with the average age of onset being 14 years of age. It is generally accepted that anxiety and depression are amongst the fastest-growing health challenges to our society at present. According to Anxiety UK, anxiety and depression have increased 13% in the UK since 1993, and one in ten children and young people aged 5–16 has a mental health disorder. 

In total, 55% of 338 school leaders surveyed by the Association of School and College Leaders reported a large rise in pupils with anxiety and stress. The survey, launched at the Association of School and College Leaders' (ASCL) annual conference in Birmingham, found that over the past five years:

- 79% of heads saw an increase in self harm or suicidal thoughts among students.
- 40% reported a big rise in cyber-bullying
- 53% of those who had referred a pupil to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) rated them poor or very poor.

I've been teaching mindfulness to children since 2012, both in school and family settings.  I'm a published author on the subject and am currently studying for a PhD, researching mindfulness and self-compassion within the education system.  In addition I am mothering four boys and so this topic feels vitally important to me. I know the difference that learning mindfulness can make to a child's mental and emotional (and indeed physical and spiritual) health.  You don't have to take my word for it... there's a rapidly growing body of research that backs me up.

I implore the Scottish Government to please make mindfulness and self-compassion a core part of every child's Personal and Social Education.

Following the publication of the 'Mindful Nation' Report by the Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group (MAPPG) there have been launches in London, Cardiff, Belfast and Birmingham, but nothing in Scotland.  This was a cross party effort by our representatives at Westminster and appears to have been taken up enthusiastically across the UK, but not in Scotland.

It's time to act, or we continue to fail our children as we watch their mental health decline.



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