What do we know already?
There are good reasons to focus on adolescence, the period of life between 10 and 24. It is crucial to prevent mental health problems before they arise in the first place. Three quarters of all mental illnesses that anyone will ever develop, start before the age of 24. For example, the peak age of o
During, adolescence, the brain and the mind undergo substantial development. As we transition from childhood to adulthood, our sense of who we are undergoes profound change, and the skills we use to navigate our lives continue to develop. Thus, adolescence is also an important window of opportunity in terms of preventing mental health problems and promoting well-being.
Young people spend much of their waking lives at school. While the primary purpose of schools is academic teaching, many have argued their remit is broader – to prepare young people for productive, happy lives by teaching foundational life skills. There have been a number of attempts to develop and evaluate programmes to prevent depression and improve mental health in schools.
Our work to date has shown that mindfulness training can prevent depression and improve mental health in adults (see here). Mindfulness training has been shown to improve skills such as attention and self-regulation, especially in the face of challenging situations. It can help people across the full spectrum of mental health, from those experiencing difficulties through to those who are flourishing. Our own pilot work and review of the research suggested that mindfulness training in adolescence might be associated with improvements in mental health (Dunning et al., 2019; 2022) and that schools-based mindfulness training has the potential to be offered universally to improve the mental health of young people (Tudor et al., 2022).
In this seven-year programme of work we set out to investigate whether mindfulness training can have the same positive effects in adolescence as we have seen in adults.