Improve the Psychological Health of College Students with Mindfulness
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“mindfulness can help students who might be struggling, in particular medical students, find new ways of relating to the difficulties that arise in their clinical work, studying and wellbeing.” – Alice Malpass
In the modern world education is a key for success. Where a high school education was sufficient in previous generations, a college degree is now required to succeed in the new knowledge-based economies. There is a lot of pressure on university students to excel so that they can get the best jobs after graduation. This stress might in fact be counterproductive as the increased pressure can lead to stress and anxiety which can impede the student’s physical and mental health, well-being, and school performance.
It is, for the most part, beyond the ability of the individual to change the environment to reduce stress, so it is important that methods be found to reduce the college students’ responses to stress; to make them more resilient when high levels of stress occur. Contemplative practices including meditation, mindfulness training, and yoga practice have been shown to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress. Indeed, these practices have been found to reduce stress and improve psychological health in college students. So, it would seem important to summarize what has been learned about mindfulness-based approaches to improve the psychological well-being of college students studying to become health professionals.
In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness-Based Approaches for Managing Stress, Anxiety and Depression for Health Students in Tertiary Education: a Scoping Review.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8435111/ ) Parsons and colleagues review and summarize the published research studies investigating the effectiveness of mindfulness-based approaches to improve the psychological well-being of college students studying to become health professionals. They identified 24 published research studies.
They report that the published research studies found that mindfulness-based training produced significant reductions in perceived stress, anxiety, and depression in the health students. Hence, these health students had similar responses to mindfulness training as has been observed in a large number of studies with a variety of healthy and ill participants. This suggests that it would be beneficial to incorporate mindfulness training in the curriculum of college students studying to become health professionals. This should improve their ability to learn their professions and become more resilient and effective professionals.
So, improve the psychological health of college health students with mindfulness.
“Mindfulness-based interventions decrease stress, anxiety, and depression and improve mindfulness, mood, self-efficacy, and empathy in health profession students.” – Janet McConville
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Parsons, D., Gardner, P., Parry, S., & Smart, S. (2021). Mindfulness-Based Approaches for Managing Stress, Anxiety and Depression for Health Students in Tertiary Education: a Scoping Review. Mindfulness, 1–16. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-021-01740-3
High rates of depression, anxiety and stress are reported in tertiary health students. Mindfulness-based programs have been included in the training of health students to help them manage depression, anxiety and stress; however, to date, there has been no review of best practice implementation of mindfulness for health students. The aim of this review was to evaluate the outcomes of mindfulness-based practice for health students to inform best practice with this population.
A comprehensive search was conducted of three electronic databases (PsychINFO, Medline and Embase) guided by the five-step systematic process for conducting scoping reviews to investigate mindfulness-based intervention programs for students enrolled in a tertiary institution in a health-related course.
Twenty-four papers met the eligibility criteria and were reviewed in detail. Findings suggested that mindfulness-based intervention approaches are useful in decreasing depression, anxiety and stress in health students; however, challenges exist in student engagement and retention. Generalization of results was limited by the heterogeneous population, intervention designs and delivery methods, as well as a lack of standardized outcome measures.
The inclusion of mindfulness-based programs within tertiary curricula can be an effective approach to assist with managing depression, stress and anxiety in health students. Providing academic credit to students, improving translation of skills to working with future clients, and embedding mindfulness-based programs within the curriculum could improve engagement and retention.