Breaking the mental health stigma with mindfulness

“You might have a sore foot or headache and mental illness is just the same as that. It’s OK to say you’re struggling with how your brain is working and it will get better.” – Alice Lowrie, Mindfulness for Children, Stroud.

It’s ‘Time to Talk Day’, which sees a nationwide effort to break the stigma around mental health. Alongside this, there is advice to prevent mental health issues in young people – with signs to look out for before it grows in to a larger issue later in life.

mental health
mentalhealth.org

Mindfulness sessions for children tackle the topic of mental health issues in under 16-year-olds before the illnesses escalate further into adulthood. As well as it being #TimeToTalk day, this week is also Children Mental Health Week and in Gloucestershire there is now an increased focus on awareness being expanded to young people.

The national Mindfulness in Schools Project aims to train adults to teach the topic to children, inspiring Alice Lowrie to do the same. She talked about her sessions in Gloucestershire and the impact they have on children.

“No one should be embarrassed or ashamed to talk about your mental health, it’s just a normal part of human experience. Scarily the rate of mental illnesses are rocketing and it’s getting younger for depression and anxiety. I think a lot of it is related to things like social media usage.”

Alice runs mindfulness sessions for young ages, teaching in schools and running after school sessions, teaching children how their brain works, how to recognise emotions and their body state.

“They’re a really relaxed and nurturing space so children can feel safe. There’s no pressure, they’re not intrusive. I can see them developing every week.”

Alice believes mindfulness and mental health should be taught in schools as much as other compulsory subjects such as English and Maths.

“I had a year six pupil say to me last week: ‘This is the most important thing I’ve ever learnt in school.’ It’s something that I have direct experience with, mindfulness has literally saved my life and I want to share that with the children. They need to know it’s normal.”

How can young people be more mindful?

As a mindfulness teacher, she shared her top 5 tips for young people to practice in mindfulness and help break the stigma against mental illnesses.

  • Download an app – there are out there to help with relaxation and mindfulness. Headspace offers calming music and meditation but there are free alternatives on the Apple and Android app stores too.
  • Go for a walk or eat some food. You don’t need an app to practice, just focus on your senses, look and smell and really understand everything around you.
  • Find a quiet space for yourself. Talk to your parents or teachers about somewhere to go to practice mindfulness when you need some time out.
  • Practice it everyday. Make a habit of it. See if you can do 5-10 minutes. It’s recommended to be able to do 20 minutes a day so eventually build up to that.
  • Most importantly, never think that your mental health should be pushed aside. Always take time to work on yourself and it’s OK to admit that you’re struggling.

 

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