Schools and education providers need to be cognisant of potentially adverse effects of mindfulness practice prior to introducing it to schools (Review safety of mindfulness practices by Mrs Evelyn Teo; March 20).
This type of meditation is indeed not advised for certain populations, particularly those who have dissociative tendencies, an active addiction to drugs and a history of unresolved trauma, or are severely depressed, suicidal or actively psychotic.
Mindfulness practices, such as focusing on the breath or body, may inadvertently overwhelm these individuals, as they have previously blocked out of their awareness certain confronting aspects of their experience.
It is important to note that these effects are more likely to emerge in individuals who attend a meditation retreat and engage in intensive practice over several days.
This is obviously a very different context from students engaging in various mindfulness exercises during the course of their school day.
Furthermore, experienced mindfulness practitioners have suggested that mindfulness practice in moment-to-moment experiences (for example, walking, listening and nature meditation) can be very grounding and are unlikely to result in any adverse effects.
Schools that are considering the implementation of mindfulness programmes for their students should seek the appropriate training to ensure that they are being delivered in an appropriate manner.
It may be prudent to engage in a brief screening of the students participating and to, perhaps, liaise with their parents, to ensure that adverse effects do not occur.
Brindha Pillay (Ms)