Mindfulness program to expand to more Sudbury students after successful pilot

There is an effort underway in Sudbury to teach mindfulness in schools. Over the past two years Public Health Sudbury and Districts has conducted a pilot project called Mindfulness in Schools, providing lessons for a few Grade 7 and 8 classrooms.

Ten local schools to get mental health program offering strategies for anxiety, stress, emotions

Public health nurse Gisele Bourgoin helped implement the Mindfulness in Schools pilot program in a few Sudbury schools. It was so successful that it will become a full program and be offered in ten schools within three local school boards. (Angela Gemmill/CBC)

There is an effort underway in Sudbury to teach mindfulness in schools.

Over the past two years, Public Health Sudbury and Districts has conducted a pilot project about mindfulness. It was offered to just a few Grade 7 and 8 classrooms.

"Students learn about mindfulness. To be mindful in their daily life," public health nurse Gisele Bourgoin said.

Over 16 lessons, each 30 minutes in length, the students also learned strategies to help them cope with things like strong emotions, stress and daily anxiety.

According to Bourgoin the mental health program was so successful, the health unit decided to make it a permanent offering and expand it to more schools.

The full program will launch this month in ten classrooms within three local school boards. It will remain focused on Grade 7 and 8 students.

Bourgoin says this is because that age group tends to report more mental health issues due to various transitions in their lives.

"It's just a difficult time, whether they're changing from an elementary school to a middle school or some of the Grade 7/8s are within high schools," she said.

"There's just different stressors that start in their life at that age."

Bourgoin says the full program includes a new curriculum. Students will be journaling and more interactive activities will be included.

Positive results from pilot

Bourgoin says after going through the pilot program many students were better able to regulate their emotions. Others reported less stress or anxiety.

She says some students were leery about the program at the beginning but by the end were using some of the strategies at home or before sports practice.

"As the sessions went on we noticed that [the students] were engaged more and more.

"They were participating, and they were actually asking the teachers to do mindfulness practices with them before test taking, before the nurses would come in and do immunization."

There was also a by-product of the pilot program that Bourgoin says the health unit wasn't expecting. Many of the teachers involved also showed positive results.

"A lot of the teachers told us that they incorporated this into their own lives, both at school and at home."

Many reported that the lessons from the mindfulness program were helping them with their sleep and relationships.

A pilot program run over the past few years in a handful of Sudbury classrooms was so successful it's being expanded. It's called the Mindfulness in Schools program. It's run by Public Health Sudbury and Districts. It has grade 7 and 8 students study mindfulness to help them cope with things like strong emotions, stress and daily anxiety. Public Health Nurse Gisele Bourgoin spoke in more detail about the program with the CBC"s Angela Gemmill. 7:27

With files from Angela Gemmill