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Piloting Mind-ARMY: A mindfulness-based intervention for at-risk male youth



Introduction: Teenage boys are a source of considerable concern in society, with poorer health, educational and social outcomes than their female counterparts. Of particular concern are ‘at-risk’ adolescents, who by definition are liable to poorer outcomes. Methods: This study piloted a new mindfulness-based intervention, created specifically for at-risk adolescent boys. This involved four weekly sessions, featuring mindfulness activities designed to engender emotional management skills. Eight participants aged 13-14 were recruited from a school in London. In-depth semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted with participants before and after the intervention, and analysed using grounded theory. Results: The data revealed an overarching theme of pressure, with participants facing three main intersecting forms of pressure, relating to school, growing up, and gender. The intervention was reported by participants as having had a positive effect, with mindfulness serving as a ‘pressure valve’ enabling participants to better deal with their negative emotions. Other positive outcomes included increased self-reported focus and attention, facilitating better performance in class. Discussion: Overall, mindfulness has promise as an intervention for helping at-risk adolescent boys deal with the considerable pressures they face in life, though further research will be needed to explore its effectiveness further.
Piloting Mind-ARMY
A mindfulness-based intervention
for at-risk male youth
Dr. Tim Lomas
University of East London
Concern about at-risk teenage boys
Development of 4-week MBI
8 boys aged 13-14 at school in East London
Interviews pre and post intervention
Grounded theory analysis
Overarching theme of pressure
MBI functioned as ‘pressure valve’
Males in ‘crisis’
Despite structural advantages, males fare
poorly on numerous outcomes
Poorer health and lower life expectancy (ONS, 2012a)
75% of all suicide deaths (ONS, 2012b)
67% of detained under the mental health act (NHS, 2011)
95% of the UK prison population (MoJ, 2012)
Outperformed in education at all levels (EHRC, 2011)
A ‘widespread popular and academic
agreement that something is troubling men’
(McDowell, 2000, p.201)
Reasons: complex and multifaceted
Early theorising: biological ‘sex differences’
Testosterone linked to maladaptive behaviours, such as
aggression (Book et al., 2001)
More recently: social construction of gender
Social learning theory
Deleterious gender norms, e.g., toughness
Associated with health-risk behaviours
Masculinity as ‘risk factor’
Emotional issues
Toughness norms = ‘restrictive emotionality
‘Normative male alexithymia’ (Levant, 1998)
Link to affect dysregulation (Addis, 2008)
‘Externalising’ distress (Pollack, 1998)
Gender differences in experience of distress
Females more likely to internalise it as sadness
Males more likely to externalise, e.g., as aggression
Accounts for higher diagnosis rates for women (Kessler,
At-risk youth
SES affects mental health: poorest men almost x3 times
more likely to suffer CMD than richest (EHRC, 2011)
At-risk youth: > 85,000 in UK (MoJ, 2012b)
More vulnerable, with poorer outcomes
Exposure to risk factors (e.g., exposure to violence)
More liable to ‘hypermasculinity’ (to compensate for lack
of structural power, e.g., education, wealth)
Adolescence as critical period
Gender becomes truly salient
‘shaping orientations toward oneself and views of one’s
place in the social world’ (Barrett & White, 2002, p.451)
Threshold (Lomas et al., 2013)
Sudden acute pressure (circa age 13) to ‘be a man’
Often linked to school transitions
Emergence of maladaptive masculine behaviours
But… creates opportunity to intervene
Summary of issues
(a) Males are liable to poorer outcomes
(b) Partly attributable to masculinity norms
(a) E.g., toughness fosters emotional disconnection
(c) At-risk youth especially vulnerable
(d) Adolescence: critical period
(e) Value of intervening in adolescence
Possible value of mindfulness
Research with male meditators (Lomas et al.)
30 men, aged 18+
All had experienced difficulties with distress etc.
Emotional re-connection through meditation
Research with adolescents (Zenner et al., 2014)
Meta-analysis: 24 relevant studies, n = 1348 students
Between-group effect sizes: cognitive performance (g=
0.80), stress (g = 0.39) and resilience (g = 0.36).
Need research on male adolescents
Research questions
a) Can boys be taught to act in ways more
conducive to wellbeing?
b) Is it possible to design an intervention to
facilitate this behavioural change?
c) Can this intervention be explicitly targeted
towards at-risk male youth?
Nine adolescent males aged 13-14
8 = BME; 1 = white
8 = born in London
From inner city comprehensive
One of the most deprived boroughs in London
A ‘free’ school (i.e., free to set own curriculum)
Judged by the school to be at risk of under-
achievement and/or exclusion in school
Invited (not compelled) to participate. All agreed.
4 week intervention: week 1
Introductory activity
Mindfulness of eating (using chocolate)
Goal setting: (a) intervention ground rules; and (b)
expectations/hopes for programme
Teaching : mind populated by animals
Breathing/counting meditation (also tracing index
figure round contours of other hand)
Set homework: do both savouring and breathing at
least once during week
4 week intervention: week 2
Check-in session: (a) what animal is your mind? (b)
what ‘colour’ is your mood?
Breathing/counting meditation
Reflections: sharing experiences of past week
Breathing/counting meditation
Guided body scan
Set homework: do savouring, breathing and body
scan at least once during week
4 week intervention: week 3
Breathing/counting meditation
Reflections: sharing experiences of past week
Teaching segment: thoughts as ‘bubbles’
Thought-watching meditation
Reflection: experiences of the mind being unkind
Walking meditation
Set homework: practice one of the five mindfulness
activities each day
4 week intervention: week 4
Breathing/counting meditation
Reflections: sharing experiences of past week
Teaching/reflection segment: responses vs reactions
Loving-kindness meditation
Did the course meet expectations?
What did you find most helpful?
What positive self-reflections can you take from participating?
How can you use mindfulness going forward?
Data collection & analysis
Individual semi-structured interviews
With female researcher
Pre and post intervention
30 mins on school premises
Questions about the intervention & wellbeing generally
Grounded theory analysis
Theory generated inductively through identification of
emergent themes
Open, selective, then theoretical coding
Results: 4 meta-themes
School pressure
Age pressure
Gender pressure
Pressure valves (i.e., mindfulness)
School pressure
Pressure to do well
You have to do GCSEs and if you do well than you can get
a good job and go to University but if you don’t do well,
[you] won’t be able to do much…
Resulting feelings of distress
Sadness, well like, kind of like depressed…because in all
the subjects we have to do…the teachers keep saying
“work hard, work hard.”
Age pressure
Wanting to preserve fun of childhood
most of the time I like playing with my console… and just
like having fun.
Gearing up for adulthood
I wanna be a friendly, loving, caring guy, cause it shows
a way of maturing, and like I’m ready for the future, cause
in the future you’re gonna have to get married one day,
and like, you’re gonna have to care.
Gender pressure
Pressure to not be ‘feminine’ (e.g., emotional)
“Everyone in the school, like, they expect you to be, erm,
masculine, but there’s other boys out there, they are a bit
like feminine, and people judge them. There was one boy,
like everyone judges, everyone stays away from because
he’s a certain type of person, and thats what I don’t like,
like if people judge you, thats not good”
Mindfulness as pressure valve
Hard to grasp at first
At first, I didn’t really understand it, so it was like,
‘Whats the point of this?... But gradually it made sense,
cause it was like to help your mind focus.’”
Soon appreciate potential
“[The walking meditation] helped me realise things that
we take for granted…like some people can’t walk, and
because of the walking meditation you just think about
everything that you do!
3 main benefits of mindfulness
Maths is still like kind of tricky, but I think I’ve improved.
Now like, I can focus more”
“[Others] say mean words to me, and I used to take it
really serious, but know I know the meditation, I [can] stop
overreacting if they’re just doing something to disturb me”
Dealing with negative emotions
“[Now[ I just don’t care what bad things happen to me… I
won’t feel sad or excited or maybe stressed”
Discussion: confluence of pressure
Gender pressure : deleterious masculine norms
E.g., pressure to not show vulnerability & emotionality
Age pressure: adolescent threshold
Caught between childhood and ‘being a man’
School pressure: need to do well
Possibly exacerbated in current climate
Worries about jobs and future prospects
Discussion: value of mindfulness
Pressure valve
Assisting with emotional management
Evidence of short-term development of EI skills
Certain practices worked particularly well
Practices that involved physical component (e.g., walking)
Cf. Singh et al. (2003) and Zylowska et al. (2008)
Brief, focused intervention
4 weeks worked well, though question of durability?
Research questions
Can boys be taught to act in ways more conducive to
Is it possible to design an intervention to facilitate this
behavioural change?
Can this intervention be explicitly targeted towards at-risk
male youth?
Answers: Yes, with caveats
More data needed, especially longitudinal and triangulated
(i.e., teachers’ reports)
Thank you for listening!
Any questions?
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Mindfulness programs for schools are popular. We systematically reviewed the evidence regarding the effects of school-based mindfulness interventions on psychological outcomes, using a comprehensive search strategy designed to locate both published and unpublished studies. Systematic searches in 12 databases were performed in August 2012. Further studies were identified via hand search and contact with experts. Two reviewers independently extracted the data, also selecting information about intervention programs (elements, structure etc.), feasibility, and acceptance. Twenty-four studies were identified, of which 13 were published. Nineteen studies used a controlled design. In total, 1348 students were instructed in mindfulness, with 876 serving as controls, ranging from grade 1 to 12. Overall effect sizes were Hedge's g = 0.40 between groups and g = 0.41 within groups (p < 0.0001). Between group effect sizes for domains were: cognitive performance g = 0.80, stress g = 0.39, resilience g = 0.36, (all p < 0.05), emotional problems g = 0.19 third person ratings g = 0.25 (both n.s.). All in all, mindfulness-based interventions in children and youths hold promise, particularly in relation to improving cognitive performance and resilience to stress. However, the diversity of study samples, variety in implementation and exercises, and wide range of instruments used require a careful and differentiated examination of data. There is great heterogeneity, many studies are underpowered, and measuring effects of Mindfulness in this setting is challenging. The field is nascent and recommendations will be provided as to how interventions and research of these interventions may proceed.
Nonbipolar major depression is estimated by the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Burden of Disease (GBD) Study to be the leading cause of disease-related disability among women in the world today (Murray & Lopez, 1996). This conclusion is based on epidemiological data that have documented a high prevalence of major depression among women around the world in conjunction with estimates of disease burden based on expert judgements. This chapter reviews the epidemiological research that underlies the WHO GBD estimates as well as more recent epidemiological research on women and depression. The discussion begins with a review of basic descriptive epidemiological patterns and then turns to epidemiological evidence about the cause of the higher prevalence of depression among women than men. PREVALENCE The fact that women have a higher prevalence of depression than do men is one of the most widely documented findings in psychiatric epidemiology, having been found throughout the world using a variety of diagnostic schemes and interview methods (Andrade et al., 2003; Nolen-Hoeksema, 1987). The prevalence of major depression among women in community epidemiological studies is typically estimated to be between one and a half and three times that of men, although there is enormous variation in the estimated total population prevalence of major depression across these studies. Lifetime prevalence estimates of major depressive episode range between 6 and 17%. Twelve-month prevalence estimates range between 1 and 10%. Current prevalence estimates range between less than 1 and 6%.
This paper has three major purposes. The first is to point to the connections between male to male, male to female and adult male to child physical and 'sexual' violence and such matters as masculinity, marginality, sexuality, intimacy and age. The understandings that arise from this discussion will be used to offer an interpretation of the connections between schooling and violence. In this context Alice Miller's ideas about 'poisonous pedagogies' will be applied to schooling. The second purpose of the paper is to identify the major orientations of mainstream, sociocultural and feminist anti-violence pedagogies and to offer an implicit critique of them, drawing from the ideas developed in the first section of the paper and from research about responses to gender reforms in schools. The third purpose of the paper is to identify the contours of an alternative anti-violence pedagogy. This will both draw from the above and from narrative therapy.
The current study investigated the feasibility of implementing a 10-week mindfulness-based intervention with a group of incarcerated adolescents. Before and after completion of the 10-week intervention, 32 participants filled out self-report questionnaires on trait mindfulness, self-regulation, and perceived stress. We hypothesized that self-reported mindfulness and self-regulation would significantly increase, and perceived stress would significantly decrease, as a result of participation in the treatment intervention. Paired t-tests revealed a significant decrease (p < .05) in perceived stress and a significant increase (p < .001) in healthy self-regulation. No significant differences were found on self-reported mindfulness. Results suggest that mindfulness-based interventions are feasible for incarcerated adolescents. Limitations and future research are discussed.
The Measuring National Well-being program began in the UK in November 2010. Traditional measures of progress such as GDP have long been recognized as an incomplete picture of the state of the nation. Following a six-month National Debate that elicited 34,000 responses, ONS developed a framework for measuring national well-being consisting of 10 domains and 40 headline indicators. The indicators include a mixture of both subjective and objective measures. Through supplementing existing economic measures, such as GDP, with measures that reflect social and environmental well-being, national well-being looks at the state of the nation through a broader lens. The paper will describe the development of the framework of indicators, including developing subjective well-being measures, and the dissemination of this information using a range of interactive tools developed for this purpose. This is a long term development program and is still in its early days of measurement. How these data are used to improve policy design, delivery, and evaluation will be important to assess the success of the program. In particular, having a more complete picture of national well-being will lead to a better understanding of policy impacts on well-being; better allocation of resources; more informed decisions; assessment of government performance; and international comparisons.
Objectives : The purpose of this study is to examine the effects of Mindfulness-based concentration qigong for children (MBCQ-C) in healthy children with subjective poor attention. Methods : This study examined the effects of MBCQ-C on healthy children with subjective poor attention, who vistied Korean medicine hospital neuropsychiatry outpatient clinic. The MBCQ-C was practiced with 11 participants, 2 of them quit in the middle of the program, and hence, they were excluded for data analysis. MBCQ-C consisted of 8 sessions, and each session took about 60 minutes. The outcome measurement was Frankfurter Aufmerksamkeits-Inventar (FAIR), which measured selective attention, self-control and sustained attention. Results : The results of this study showed that selective attention, and sustained attention were significantly improved. Self-control also improved, but without any statistical significance. These results indicate MBCQ-C was effective for the improvement of attention abilities, but self-control, including upper cognition area needs more consistent exercise. Conclusions : The MBCQ-C consisting of 8 sessions were shown to be an effective intervention in improving the attention abilities of healthy children with subjective poor attention.
There has been a great deal of attention given to the application of feminist therapy in treating women, but there is little written about feminist therapy and its applications in treating men. Gender role analysis has proven to be effective in developing hope, resilience, and transcendence–3 primary sources in times of emotional distress. This article conceptualizes the treatment of men survivors of trauma at 2 levels: redefining masculinity and its legacies and confronting trauma and its legacies.