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***(UK) "One of world's largest mental health trials" happening in schools

Sept 16, 2019, GoodNewsNetwork: This is What 350 Schools Are Now Teaching in a Massive New Mental Health Trial in the UK One of the world’s largest trials ever undertaken in the realm of mental health is now underway in the classrooms of hundreds of UK schools—and GNN has learned new details about the curriculum, as outcomes are being evaluated for the first round of data. Thousands of children and teens are being taught wellness techniques aimed at providing the students with better coping skills and self-awareness of their mental health. The London-based researchers expect their study to show how investing in training and setting aside class time devoted to relaxation, mindfulness, and mental health will pay off for our youth—with less depression and anxiety, and fewer suicidal thoughts…. “Schools and teachers don’t have all the answers, nor could they, but we know they can play a special role, which is why we have launched one of the biggest mental health trials in schools,” UK Education Secretary Damian Hinds said in a statement. “These trials are key to improving our understanding of how practical, simple advice can help young people cope with the pressures they face.”… At least 8,600 ninth-graders participated in the trial. Ninety high schools set aside 45-60 minutes in a class once per week for 6 consecutive weeks, so that a specially-trained instructor could present a lesson from a mental health curriculum…. In the primary and middle school groups, most of the children were involved more experientially, with 5-minute coaching sessions in mindfulness, progressive muscle relaxation, and deep breathing. School staff completed a half-day face-to-face training course and were provided with manuals appropriate to the grade level, containing many activities, apps, and online games. The Mindfulness intervention was developed for the trial based on the concept as defined by Jon Kabat-Zinn: “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally”. It consists of mindful breathing exercises and other activities focused on self-awareness of sensations, emotions and thoughts, with exercises divided into three types: (1) those focusing on the mind; (2) those focusing on the body; (3) those focusing on the world around us. Another group was paired with a curriculum designed to bring awareness to aspects of mental health in 8 consecutive weekly lessons: 1. It’s safe to talk about mental health 2. We all have mental health 3. What is safety? 4. Early warning signs – noticing our bodies 5. Early warning signs – noticing our feelings and thoughts 6. Developing our safety networks 7. Safe friendships 8. Safe ways of managing emotions The curriculum for the younger kids was created by Dr. Bajaj, the lead developer at the Anna Freud Centre’s schools program, who consulted with experts in Protective Behaviors interventions for the Safety and Wellbeing lessons. Although opt-outs were offered to parents who didn’t want their child’s data collected for the study, the interventions were still taught to all the students regardless of opt-out status—so all the children who were in an active group got the benefit of the program in which they were placed. And after the study is complete, the faculty at the inactive “control” group schools will be offered the opportunity to receive the same specialized training, so that no one is left behind without something to share with their students…. The researchers are evaluating the student outcomes now, 3-6 months after the intervention commenced—and they will look at the long-range effects of each intervention by surveying students again after a year, with the final data being released in 2021. Outcomes measured will include changes to: positive well-being, behavioral difficulties, support from school staff, stigma-related knowledge, attitudes, behaviors, and mental health first aid. An economic evaluation will also assess the cost-effectiveness of the interventions. As the data from the first wave of the trial is collected and processed, the expectation is that these measures will show that, without a doubt, these small interventions add up to money well spent.


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