Many children can experience feelings of separation, low self-esteem, anxiety and mental health issues. For many years, traditional academic subjects have been the main focus of education while nurturing skills such as reflection and resilience have potential for much greater development. Social media creates enormous challenges in terms of bullying, discrimination and peer pressure. Many children live with anxiety and very busy minds. In 2013, a survey of 900 Irish primary school principals confirmed that nearly half reported being on medication for blood pressures, depression, anxiety and sleep loss (IPPN). A survey of 14,306 young people indicated that nearly one in three surveyed had experienced some level of mental health distress (Headstrong, 2012). This clearly calls for a strategic and integrated mental health focus for children and their teachers at primary school level.
Mindfulness Matters originated in Mayo with the vision of developing Continuing Professional Development for teachers and ‘creating space in the mind’ for teachers and their pupils. An invitation from the Director of the Mayo Education Centre in 2010 to co-create and co-facilitate programmes for teachers was the spark that enabled the directors, Dr. Ann Caulfield and Derval Dunford, to become business partners and to realise a passion to enable children to flourish. Ann has completed doctoral research into the impact of mindfulness practice on stress reduction among Irish primary school teachers. The findings of this research are integrated into the programmes that are created by Mindfulness Matters. Derval has trained in teaching Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) with the University of Massachusetts and the University of Bangor
Many primary schools in Ireland have implemented the programmes and tailored them to suit their needs whilst integrating them into the SPHE programme and the curriculum. The programmes have been delivered both online and in person to teachers throughout the country through the Mayo Education Centre and the Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO).