A bustling middle school that serves more than 1,000 students in a largely low-income community may seem like an unlikely place to demonstrate the benefits of mindfulness. But Park Middle School in Antioch, in partnership with the Niroga Institute, is showing how a program of mindful movement, breathing, and centering can make a difference in school culture and in the lives of young people.
One student described the program this way: “It clears my mind so I can think about one thing, instead of thinking about millions of things at once.”
Kaiser Permanente has supported the Niroga Institute’s evidence-based dynamic mindfulness programs in schools for more than 6 years, and in 2019 it began funding its work at Park Middle School and 3 other Northern California middle and high schools. In 2019, Kaiser Permanente also funded the Mindful Life Project and Mindful Schools. Together, the 3 nonprofits support 15 elementary, middle, and high school mindfulness programs serving students, teachers, and school staff in underserved communities throughout Northern California.
Our campus culture has become supportive and mindful. There’s a groundedness that I’m seeing in the students that’s really beautiful.” – Julia Kent, Park Middle School Counselor
Substantial evidence shows mindfulness training helps students combat the negative impacts of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) and decrease stress and anxiety. It also has been shown to increase students’ ability to focus attention, emotionally regulate, as well as improve coping skills and interpersonal relationships. Research also indicates that mindfulness adapted for educators optimizes teacher wellness and self-compassion and reduces burnout and bias.
“We know that underserved communities experience disproportionally greater stress than other communities,” said Bidyut Bose, executive director, Niroga Institute. “Kaiser Permanente is enabling us to provide stress resilience and trauma-healing mindfulness practices to try to level the playing field.”
In addition to grants supporting mindfulness programs, in 2019, Kaiser Permanente also invested in mental health and wellness in schools through these initiatives:
Resilience in School
Resilience in School Environments (RISE) is part of Kaiser Permanente’s Thriving Schools. RISE deploys virtual and in-person resources to empower schools to cultivate practices that strengthen the social and emotional health of school employees and students.
The Kaiser Permanente Resilience Initiative supports community-based organizations to offer trauma-informed services and supports to youth, teachers, and staff at public middle and high schools while fostering a trauma-informed school culture.
Kaiser Permanente Educational Theatre offers a variety of free programs to schools and communities including Ghosted, addressing student stress, anxiety, and depression and healthy coping strategies; RISE UP, a learning session for teachers and school staff to foster resilience using a trauma-sensitive approach to interactions with students; and Nightmare on Puberty St., which promotes healthy ways for students to cope with stress, depression, and thoughts of suicide.
Kaiser Permanente helps empower schools to support the well-being of students and school staff because healthy school environments promote both wellness and educational success, which can lead to better employment opportunities and a lifetime of health benefits.