Mindful Schools, a national non-profit organization, empowering educators to create equitable and joyful learning environments, today announced it has received a $750,000 grant from the Cigna Foundation. The grant is part of Cigna Foundation’s Healthier Kids for Our Future® initiative to improve mental health and address loneliness, anxiety, and depression. The two-year grant will fund school-wide mindfulness intervention programs for school-aged children.
“We’re proud to further our support and commitment to investing in the social and emotional well-being of school communities. The COVID-19 pandemic has created extended periods of stress, isolation and trauma. With this grant to Mindful Schools, we can help provide immediate support and resources for children and educators, while also providing a foundation for longer-term mental and physical wellbeing.”
— Susan Stith, Vice President, Cigna Foundation
“Educators serve on the front lines of navigating our nation’s social challenges,” said Seewan Eng, executive director, Mindful Schools. “The pandemic, divisive election, and growing spotlight on racial injustice have added stress and new demands on teachers and students. As we navigate today’s uncertainty and plan for a transition back to in-person schooling, educators need resources to prioritize self-care and skillfully meet the needs of their students. The partnership with Cigna Foundation will help ensure children are welcomed back into classrooms that support their well-being and provide a strong foundation for them to learn and thrive.”
Mindful Schools, which serves more than 35,000 educators each year, provides accessible and impactful programs that are responsive to the unique needs of school communities. The organization offers online and in-person professional development training for educators to learn and share mindfulness practice with youth, and bases its approach on research that demonstrates a link between teacher and student stress.
“We’re proud to further our support and commitment to investing in the social and emotional well-being of school communities,” said Susan Stith, Vice President, diversity, equity, and inclusion, civic affairs, and Cigna Foundation. “The COVID-19 pandemic has created extended periods of stress, isolation and trauma. With this grant to Mindful Schools, we can help provide immediate support and resources for children and educators, while also providing a foundation for longer-term mental and physical wellbeing.”
A recent survey by the National Education Association revealed that 28% of educators say the impacts of the coronavirus have made them more likely to leave teaching or retire early, while a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), shows emergency department visits related to mental health were found to have increased by 24 percent for children aged 5 to 11; and 31 percent for children aged 12 to 17, from April through October 2020, when compared to the previous year.
“We know that students absorb the stress of adults and that young people learn better in environments that are emotionally supportive. When teachers “put on their oxygen mask first” and regulate their own nervous systems, they become more effective in modeling and sharing transformative practices with youth,” said Megan Sweet, Senior Director of Program and Impact at Mindful Schools.
Mindful Schools’ surveys show that 90 percent of educators who participate in their program report lower stress and greater self-compassion, with 82 percent connecting better with their students. Educators also report that 89 percent of their students improve their emotional regulation and 83 percent improve focus.
Mindful Schools surveys educators who participate in their programs.
90% report lower stress and greater self-compassion
82% connect better with their students
89% of their students improve emotional regulation
83% of their students improve focus
Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to one’s thoughts, bodily sensations, and external environment with nonjudgment, kindness and curiosity. Research finds that mindfulness practice helps to decrease stress and anxiety, and strengthen resilience and emotional regulation, for both adults and children. Implementation of mindfulness in education has increased in recent years, with many schools introducing mindfulness programs to provide a foundation for more effective social and emotional learning (SEL) and restorative justice initiatives.
A groundbreaking study in 1998 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) linked Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) to dramatically higher rates of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes in middle-aged patients. Proceeding studies have revealed that the negative health impacts of childhood stress can be prevented through the ongoing practice of mindfulness meditation, which lowers the body’s stress response by decreasing cortisol levels, blood pressure, and heart rates. Mindful Schools supports educators to deliver the daily doses of healing interactions and practices that mitigate the impact of toxic stress.
“We are so grateful for the Cigna Foundation’s partnership in addressing the mental health and well-being of schools,” said Eng. “Together, we have the power to build a brighter future by creating a mindful and heart-centered relationship with ourselves and our communities.”