Being mindful of mental health: The role of local government in mental health and wellbeing

This report explores how councils influence the mental wellbeing of our communities and how council services, from social care to parks to open spaces to education to housing, help to make up the fabric of mental health support for the people in our communities | LGA

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Image source: LGA

This report explores how councils influence the mental wellbeing of our communities and how council services, from social care to parks to open spaces to education to housing, help to make up the fabric of mental health support for the people in our communities. Many of our partner organisations have kindly contributed their view of the role of local government in mental health.

The World Health Organisation describes mental health as ‘a state of wellbeing in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community’. Good mental health is essential for a healthy and prosperous society. However, it is easy to focus on what happens when a person becomes mentally ill, and how the health service intervenes, rather than how to keep our communities mentally well in the first place, preventing mental health issues arising, intervening early if problems do start surfacing, and helping people manage their lives going forward. This is where councils play a fundamental role in the mental health and wellbeing of the population.

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Relationship Between Mindfulness and Non-Suicidal Self-Injury

This research explored whether lack of mindfulness or problems in mindfulness are involved in self-injury.

Non-suicidal self-injury is a complex behaviour, disturbingly prevalent, difficult to treat and with possible adverse outcomes in the long term. Previous research has shown individuals most commonly self-injure to cope with overwhelming negative emotions. Mindfulness has been shown to be associated with emotion regulation, and mindfulness-based interventions have shown effectiveness in a wide range of psychological disorders.

Pairwise comparisons revealed current self-injurers reported significantly lower mindfulness than past self-injurers and non-self-injurers, with medium effect sizes of d = 0.51 and d = 0.77, respectively. In logistic regression, low mindfulness significantly predicted self-injury (B = 0.04, p < .001). These findings have clinical implications, suggesting that mindfulness-based interventions may assist individuals to give up self-injurious behaviours and may be an important part of prevention strategies.

Full reference: Caltabiano, G. & Martin, G. (2017) Mindless Suffering: the Relationship Between Mindfulness and Non-Suicidal Self-Injury. Mindfulness. 8(788)

Prospective Associations Between Peer Victimization and Dispositional Mindfulness in Early Adolescence

Riggs, N.R. & Brown, S.M. (2017) Preventative Science. 18(4) 481-489

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Peer victimization is associated with several mental health and behavioral problems during childhood and adolescence. Identifying prospective associations between victimization and factors known to protect against these problems may ultimately contribute to more precise developmental models for victimization’s role in behavioral and mental health.

This study tested prospective associations between peer victimization and dispositional mindfulness, defined by non-judgmental and accepting awareness of the constant stream of lived experience, during early adolescence.

As hypothesized, baseline victimization predicted significantly lower levels of mindfulness at 4-month posttest. Baseline mindfulness did not predict victimization. Results may reflect victimized youths’ mindful awareness being recurrently diverted away from the present moment due to thoughts of prior and/or impending victimization. Study implications may include implementing mindful awareness practices as an intervention strategy for victimized youth to enhance and/or restore this promotive factor.

Read the abstract here

Mindful Parenting Group Training for Mothers and Their Babies

Potharst, E.S. et al. Mindfulness | Published online: 13 April 2017

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Many mothers experience difficulties after the birth of a baby. Mindful parenting may have benefits for mothers and babies, because it can help mothers regulate stress, and be more attentive towards themselves and their babies, which may have positive effects on their responsivity. This study examined the effectiveness of Mindful with your baby, an 8-week mindful parenting group training for mothers with their babies.

Read the full article here

Improvement of mindfulness skills predicts long-term reductions of neuroticism

Spinhoven, P. et al. (2017) Journal of Affective Disorders.  213(4) pp. 112–117

Highlights:

  • Following MBCT, participants manifested significant improvements in mindfulness skills.
  • At 15-month follow-up, participants showed lower levels of neuroticism.
  • At follow-up, participants also showed higher levels of extraversion and conscientiousness.
  • Improvements in mindfulness skills predicted subsequent changes in personality traits.
  • The mindfulness facets of describing and acting with awareness were most predictive.

Read the full abstract here

Mindfulness and Support and Information Group Interventions for Parents of Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Lunsky, Y. et al. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders | Published online: 3 April 2017

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This study evaluated two community based interventions for parents of adults with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities.

Parents in the mindfulness group reported significant reductions in psychological distress, while parents in the support and information group did not. Reduced levels of distress in the mindfulness group were maintained at 20 weeks follow-up. Mindfulness scores and mindful parenting scores and related constructs (e.g., self-compassion) did not differ between the two groups.

Results suggest the psychological components of the mindfulness based group intervention were effective over and above the non-specific effects of group processes and informal support.

Read the abstract here

A curriculum for wellbeing

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The Department for Education has announced that schools will be trialling several mental health promotion programmes in schools, including mindfulness, relaxation techniques, and programmes teaching children about how to maintain good mental health. 

The announcement follows the Prime Minister’s pledge to prioritise mental health. And it recognises the evidence of the critical role of schools and the high proportion of mental health problems that begin in childhood.

Read more at Centre for Mental Health

Full paper:
Children and young people’s mental health research and evaluation programme