Initially a concept rooted in Buddhist practice, mindfulness training – involving a series of meditation practices and observation exercises – has received widespread acceptance as a skill-based therapeutic treatment and has garnered rising interest among health professionals in the past three decades. Aside from its positive effects on improving individual wellbeing, mindfulness training has also been used among youth with evidence showing its effects on alleviating symptoms associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder (“ASD”) and Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (“ADHD”). As there is increasing prevalence of both ASD and ADHD in Hong Kong, it is believed that family-based mindfulness interventions, which cultivate mindfulness in both children and their caregivers, can lead to improvement in both caregivers’ and children’s psychological health and improvement in children’s behavior and attention.
With the emerging evidence of applying mindfulness training as a preventive mental health intervention for youth, the Jockey Club School of Public Health and Primary Care, with support from the Foundation, is currently delivering The Mindful Awareness Project for Youth & Their Families (“Program”), a 2-year mindfulness-based training and service program aiming to benefit youth and their caregivers in Hong Kong who are diagnosed with ASD and ADHD, as well as children and adolescents who are affected with sub-clinical symptoms of internalizing mental health problems.
Inspired by MYmind, a mindfulness and family-based intervention originally developed in 2008 in the Netherlands tailored for children and youth with ASD, ADHD as well as their caregivers, the Program will engage both caregivers and youth in mindfulness training, enabling both parties to benefit not only from learning mindfulness skills, but also from improved child-caregiver interactions and relationships. Utilizing a train-the-trainer approach, the Program also aims to build up the capacity of mental health professionals to deliver the intervention, in hopes that they will later implement components of the Program at their affiliated non-governmental service organizations at various parts of Hong Kong.
By adopting the life-course approach to health with a focus on improving health of an individual starting at an early stage, and sharing the belief by Dr. Brock Chisholm, the first Director-General of the World Health Organization, that “without mental health there can be no true physical health”, we are confident that through the cultivation of mindfulness in families, a long-term, preventive impact will be seen among our beneficiaries such that the attainment of good physical and psychological health will be achieved and will prepare both children and their family caregivers to tackle the challenges of life ahead.