Young people “in urgent need” of mindfulness training

A local psychologist who is passionate about creating a happier and healthier world has just launched Ireland’s first complete mindfulness-based curriculum for primary schools, called ‘The Mindful Heart.’

Louise Shanagher from Kiltoom, has already achieved huge success with a series of books focusing on the mental health and wellbeing of children called ‘Mindfully Me’ and she followed up this up last year with a series of books called ‘Kindfully Me.’

Now, she has just released a complete suite of tools to assist primary school children in protecting their mental health and dealing with their feelings and emotions, particularly in these anxious Covid times.

‘The Mindful Heart’ is a practical and easy-to-follow guide which Louise says “simplifies the introduction of mindfulness” for teachers who wish to use it as part of the SPHE curriculum.

A strong believer in the concept of kindness, Louise Shanagher says it is “very important” to instill the concept of kindness in children from an early age.

“Children need to be kind to themselves and to others,” she says “and my mindfulness programme is very much focused on happiness and on being kind.”

Louise Shanagher’s ‘Mindful Heart’ curriculum contains ten lesson plans which are adapted to suit classes from junior infants to sixth class. Each lesson presents the core components of mindfulness in a “practical, fun, creative and child-friendly way” according to its author.

Each lesson is accompanied by a comic book, workbook pages and a vast array of supporting online resources including videos, guided meditation and Irish language resources.

Having originally trained as a psychologist, Louise Shanagher went on to achieve further qualifications in Psychotherapy and Play Therapy, and she spends most of her time training facilitators in her classroom-based mindfulness programme.

“So far, I have probably trained over 1,000 facilitators all over the world in my mindfulness method and I have had excellent feedback and reviews for the programme and for the resources that accompany it.”

She says the programme, which is available for schools to buy from her website, focuses on “prioritising and addressing the mental health and well-being of children and giving them the tools to deal with these issues themselves.”

Louise feels that mental health and wellbeing in children and young people generally is often overlooked “in favour of academic achievement” and she passionately believes that the statistics around depression, suicide, self-harm and drug-related issues among young people “should demonstrate the urgent need for mindfulness training.”

The proliferation of social media, and now the Covid pandemic, have all contributed to creating high levels of stress and anxiety in children and young people, according to the Kiltoom psychologist, and she is really hopeful that all schools will incorporate her programme into the curriculum.