Youth Mental Health
In the United States, it is estimated that 6 to 9 million children and adolescents have a diagnosable mental disorder with at least minimum impairment (U.S. Public Health Service, 2000); 1 in 5 children and adolescents 9 to 17 years old have a mental health disorder that leads to impairment in daily functioning (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1999). Anxiety and mood disorders, particularly depression, are the most frequently reported of these disorders, with combined prevalence rates ranging from 9% to 15% in adolescence (e.g., Hyman, 2001; Shaffer et. al., 1996).
In MBSR and related contemporary mindfulness-based interventions, training in mindfulness focuses on the development of mindfulness in day-to-day life, while also encouraging an attitude of acceptance or non-judgmentality toward events and experiences to facilitate the practice of mindful presence (Shapiro, Carlson, Astin, & Freedman, 2006).
Stress and the Brain View
- Short term stress enhances cognitive function
- Chronic stress is damaging to the body, including the brain in many ways
- Excessive cortisol production from chronic stress leads to brain cells reduced ability to take up glucose which is the fuel they need and they shrink
- Cells of the Hippocampus (memory) are particularly vulnerable to chronic stress
- Chronic stress leads to physical changes in the arrangements of the neurons in the brain
- Prolonged Stress leads to fatigue, irritability, reduced concentration, anxiety, low mood
- Fatigue, irritability, reduced concentration, anxiety, depression, and reduction in executive functions of working memory and decision making impede learning
Assessing Mindfulness View
- It is important to assess mindfulness in order to test its the benefits. We can also test whether mindfulness training cultivates mindfulness and also determine links between enhanced mindfulness and positive outcomes
- But, how can we measure something internal? Mindfulness is a subjective state of mind, and like other subjective states, it has been the most effective to use self-reports.
- One such validated measurement tool is Brown and Ryan’s (2003) Mindfulness Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS)
- This tool was derived from Buddhist scholarship an highlights a state of receptive attention which, informed by a sensitive awareness, one simply observes what is taking place in the present moment
- Designed for use with adults and validated with college students, community adults, individuals with cancer
- Has both 15-item trait form and 5-item state form; it is measured uni-dimensionally, with single factors and no subscales; it is easy to score and is public domain (free)
- Studies have used the MAAS to test self-reported anxiety, hostility, judgement and decision-making, depressive symptoms, and neurological markers of emotion reactivity and regulation, such as amygdala activation at rest and under stress as well as higher-right prefrontal cortical activation
Mindfulness Attention Awareness Scale—Adolescents (MAAS-A) View
- The MAAS is useful for assessing the subjective effects of mindfulness on adults, but youth-mindfulness research is expanding and the availability of age-appropriate measurement is critical
- Adolescents represent a distinct population and are developmentally different from adults, with:
- Neuro-biological differences and differences of executive functioning
- Stage-of-life differences such as
- Driving urges
- Choices and autonomy
- Cohort and peer interactions
- Differences in reading level
- Brown, West, Loverich, and Biegel. (In Press) adapted the MAAS into a measure that considers the population and developmental differences between adolescents and adults, and is therefore more relevant to adolescents
- The Mindfulness Attention Awareness Scale—Adolescents (MAAS-A) is a 14-item, self-report measure, which has shown to be a reliable measure of mindful presence among normative and clinical populations of adolescents aged 14-18 years
- In both populations, the MAAS-A is related to a number of indicators of psychological well-being, mental health, and healthy self-regulation
- The scale showed sensitivity to reported changes in mindfulness in an adapted MBSR program for adolescents (MBSR-T)
- Changes in MAAS-A scores significantly related to positive changes in mental health among MBSR-T clinical participants up to 3 months post-treatment
Read more about the study in: Brown, K. W., West, A.M., Loverich, T.M., & Biegel, G.M. (In Press). Assessing adolescent mindfulness: Validation of an adapted mindful attention awareness scale in adolescent normative and psychiatric populations. Psychological Assessment.
MBSR and the Brain View
- Research with adults shows that mindfulness, over time, has been found to change the structure and function of the brain.
- This suggests that we have the power to change our brain.
- “The brain learns, adapts and molecularly restructures itself on the basis of thought and emotional experience.”
- Each experience, emotion, and thought we have affects our brain. Our brain is constantly changing as a result of our life moment to moment.
- Long-time meditators were found to have a thicker cerebral cortex and less loss of grey matter.
- This effects one’s: Thinking, Judgment, and Attention in a positive way
- Read more about MSBR and the brain on the page: Mindful Brain [NOTE: Link underlined portion to page About >> Mindful Brain]
- For more research on mindfulness and its effects on the brain:
- http://www.massgeneral.org/about/pressrelease.aspx?id=1329 (Jan. 2011) Press release from Massachusetts General Hospital, Mindfulness meditation training changes brain structure in 8 weeks
- http://www.psychologytoday.com/node/34756 (Nov. 2009). Lucas, M. in Psychology Today, Nine ways that a meditating brain creates better relationships