Dr Zuhra Ahmad and Ayesha Aslam’s pilot research on Mental Health awareness in school aged children using mindfulness was chosen and published. We were asked to deliver a presentation in Birmingham and we won best oral presentation.
Published in: Archives of DISEASE IN CHILDHOOD, May 2019, Volume 104 Supplement 2
The prevalence of mental ill health in primary school-aged children is increasing and occurs in up to 1 in 10 children. Mental Health problems cause distress and greatly impact educational attainment, physical health and building social relationships. There is little data on mental health issues in primary school-aged children amongst ethnic minorities. Mental health issues are often unrecognised and not addressed in this population. Mindfulness techniques have been found to improve mental health and well being in children.
To increase mental health awareness and teach mindfulness skills to primary school-aged children from ethnic minority groups and break down the stigma associated in using mindfulness within Muslim communities.
A prospective, pilot health promotion programme was conducted to assess recruitment rates, prior knowledge and prevalence of mental ill health, and usefulness of mindfulness on primary school-aged children from ethnic minority backgrounds. Children, accompanied by a parent, attended once weekly mindfulness sessions for six weeks over the summer vacation. Self advised questionnaires were completed by parents at the start and end of the health promotion.
Twenty three primary school-aged children (6.5+-2.1 yr) participated in the pilot health promotion programmer. Children were from Pakistani, Indian and Bangladeshi backgrounds. Parents felt 30+- 22% of primary school-aged children are affected by mental health issues. Seventy nine percent of parents ‘strongly agreed’ that promotion of mental health was important for their child. Importantly, 36% of parents felt their child was currently encountering stress and anxiety or encountered stress and anxiety. Major stressors for children as perceived by their parents included school studies, new situations, parental stress, and relationship with friends and health issues including eczema. The sessions were received well and parents rated the mindfulness sessions as ‘fun’, ‘useful’, ’crucial and a ‘vital skill’.
Perception of mental health problems in families of ethnic backgrounds varies greatly. Importantly, parents reported that some children have continued engaging with mindfulness skills taught in the health promotion sessions. Further sessions have been requested. More research and mental health promotion is needed in ethnic minority communities.