• 20% of adolescents may experience a mental health problem in any one year 

  • Research into a new school study programme has revealed huge improvements in mental health in young people 

  • Dozens of schools across England have been testing an evidence-based programme

As reported on today on Radio 4's Today Programme, dozens of schools across England have been testing an evidence-based 4-year study programme created to improve the general health of young students. With weekly-hour long lessons on mindfulness techniques, resilience, relationships, and emotional health, students between the age of 11-15 have been experiencing great improvements in their state of mind. 

In comparison with a control group which didn't participate, a formal evaluation of the programme finds a substantial increase in children and adolescents' general health, and the improvement in life satisfaction has been equated to when an adult finds a partner. 

The participating students interviewed on Radio 4 enthused how the programme had helped them cope with exam stress, as well as with personal problems outside of school: "There was definitely problems with academic stress and friendship groups, and other personal problems, which I've been able to deal with in much more successful ways", says Sam. 

Those with diagnosed mental health difficulties also felt supported by the classes: "As a sufferer of anxiety, it has really helped as the coping mechanisms that we're taught have been effective in everyday life. Other students I know who suffer from poor mental health have also improved", says Bailey.

In order to deliver the programme, teachers must complete a week of intensive training. PE teacher Abi admits she found the idea of meditation and self-awareness very unfamiliar: "I was very sceptical at first, it's not really something I'm comfortable doing myself, but I think within the first half a day I realised how useful it was."

During their training, the teachers have to use the techniques on themselves, often with revealing results. Sophie, a modern languages teacher: "I personally found out a lot about myself, things I've been carrying around since my own childhood, I felt very equipped coming back into the classroom."

Mindfulness in Schools Project (MiSP) is one charity aiming to provide mindfulness training in schools. It trains teachers across the country to deliver mindfulness sessions to school-children, with various programmes tailored to specific ages.

With 50% of mental health problems becoming established by the age of 14and 70% of young people not receiving appropriate intervention when they need it most, the programme's potential looks promising. At a low cost as well - £25 a year per student - should this programme be compulsory across secondary schools?

Further reading:

1 in 4 young women have a mental health problem

The basics of mindfulness: where does it come from?

Mindfulness tips for exam stress

Beyond shame, beyond stigma: Jonny Benjamin's new charity to bring mental health into schools

MeeTwo: an app to help anxious teenagers