Friday, 17 March 2017

Mindfulness in schools

The UK Column News covered the subject on Wednesday and Thursday:

Brian Gerrish began by saying: "This is the All Party Mindfulness group in Parliament which has been working to get mindfulness into health, education, the workplace and the criminal justice system. Now most people [are] totally unaware of this. They set up the Mindfulness Initiative. It says it`s a charity; don`t worry, we`re independent; we`re non-profit making. But the man we really need to pay attention to is Lord Layard because with his team he is boasting that he`s already trained - we say reframed - 115 Parliamentarians and 80 staff by mindfulness. Now I believe that figure relates to at least a year ago, so we can assume there`s more."

"But this is the organisation and we`re going to ask today for help from our viewers and listeners to get on to that Parliamentary site Have a look at the people involved and if you`re in their constituency can you start asking questions?"

"Well this is the man himself, Lord Layard. He simply says [of his background] he`s London School of Economics and Political Science. As far as we can see he`s medically unqualified, particularly in the mental health field. But his main current interest is how better mental health could improve social and economic life and his work on mental health includes publishing the Depression Report in 2006 which led to the establishment of the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT). He co-edited the 2012 World Happiness Report.  So we`ve got, it would seem, a medically unqualified man simply coming out and telling us what we need for our mental health. I find this deeply, deeply worrying. And if we have a look at The Mindfulness Intitiative itself, here we can see how closely embedded it is with the Parliamentary system. This is one of the Westminster committee rooms, the Mindfulness Initiative."

"And we called them today to say: `Are there any risks?` And they directed us to this page on their website which is `Is it for everyone?` And if I focus in on this what have we got here? Well, basically we`re seeing that:"
"On occasion, participants in medtation groups or retreats report unusual or unexpected experiences. This can prompt a variety of reactions, from curiosity at one end of the scale, to concern or distress at the other."

"So they are admitting here that mindfulness can cause... `distress`,  and they go on to say that people who are not fully qualified should not be giving this teaching.  But of course, this is psychotherapy which has no proper regulation anyway. So we said..  `Has the All Party Parliamentary group conducted risk analysis on mindfulness?` And we were told the answer was `No` but down here in the small print, part of the responsibility for this so-called risk, which doesn`t exist, is passed back here to the Oxford Mindfulness Centre."

"My goodness it get`s more interesting because they are visioning a world where mindfulness enables greater awareness, understanding, compassion, wisdom and responsiveness."

"How did we survive, Mike, for thousands of years without Oxford University and mindfulness? And if you really want to see the key part, they want to get mindfulnes worldwide. They want us to be able to realise our human potential which, of course, we couldn`t do without Oxford university. They want to embody mindfulness in all that we do and they want to be practising the change we would like to see."

"Who`s we?"

"I think that`s they."

"And we`ve looked on their website. No clear risk analysis on mindfulness although as we`ve seen harmful effects are recognised. We spoke to them on the phone and we`ve been invited to make contact by email to see what risk analysis they`ve done."

At this point Mike Robinson put forward the view: "There`s something that`s never really covered ...suicides in young people and I just wonder how much of this type of psychological manipulation  -  how much responsibility people like this have for this type of unfortunate result in young people?"

"...  they`re not clinical psychologists; they`re not trained psychiatrists where at least you have some regulation, some form of standards being imposed - these are psychotherapists. Anybody can do the course - put the plate up on the wall - then they`re going into schools manipulating the minds of youngsters. They have no idea if there`s any underlying mental health issue with any of those children. This is very very dangerous stuff."

"We`ve mentioned schools so we might as well bring in this. And thank you for viewers north of the border. Here we are: `Mindfulness in Scotland`. Not only is it going to be looking at enhancing the wellbeing of the people of Scotland but this is going directly into schools."

"I`ve just pointed out the little icon there because several people have contacted me this morning to say we think this is occult.  I have no way of knowing, but I don`t like the look of it. There`s a little person with roots growing up into a tree."

"The outstretched hands," said Mike Robinson. "You see the outstretched hands in so many of these sites in some form in their logo."

"Indeed. We`ll let other people research that ... Our point is, who are these people who are going into schools, playing with the minds of young children?  No risk analysis on this site either but when I went looking for who these people were - who is `Mindfulness Scotland` it brought me to a housing estate. There is no named individual. There`s no telephone number. There`s just an address - an email address - and the address is on a housing estate in Glasgow."

"So these are the people being given the responsibility to play with the minds of our children and young people. And as you say Mike we`re watching this dramatic increase in suicide rates amongst young people..."

Some people in the chat box suggested that the UK Column presenters did not understand mindfulness but as Mike Robinson said: "They have weaponised mindfulness for a political agenda and this is something quite different ..."

I have noticed that Richard Layard appears in the World Government Summit publication The State of Positive Education in conversation with positive psychology guru Dr Martin Seligman.
Seligman says: "For the last two decades Richard has made it his job to take promising ideas from psychology and to persuade the British body politic to act on them. With David Clark, Professor at Oxford, he persuaded Parliament to allocate more than one billion pounds sterling to train thousands of new cognitive therapists to treat depression (Layard & Clark, 2014)."
"`I am going to take the Penn Prevention Program to the schools of the UK,` Richard declares as we walk the back streets of Glasgow on a break from a meeting in which we share the podium."

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