GROW: Mindfulness for At-Risk Youth

More people are anxious, depressed and stressed than ever before. Youth have been hit the hardest. Disadvantaged youth need help, and mindfulness can help them cope and flourish.

The GROW program (Grit, Resilience, Openness, Wellness) will bring much-needed mental health support to over 20 youth-serving agencies across Toronto. It will provide the foundation to extend similar mindfulness programs across Ontario and beyond.

Starting in 2019, GROW will extend for 3 years. It is a “train-the-trainer program” to embed mindfulness in youth-serving agencies. This will be the most comprehensive training of its kind, and the data gained will be instrumental in convincing key decision makers to fund similar programs.

Mindfulness-based practices have helped me a lot at managing my stress. Instead of panicking or being anxious or trying to control everything I need to do, I have more space for myself to let things be and unfold. I find it very helpful because with that sense of space, things turn out well.

These practices can help young people, especially the youth I’m working with, who are dealing with a lot of mental health concerns. It’s helpful to have a tool wherein they don’t need to be overwhelmed all the time.

A simple breathing exercise or a moment to focus on something to find themselves grounded can help them be less stressed out. I’m looking forward to sharing what I’ve learned so far as I think it can help them along the way.

– Anne, a frontline worker at Loft Community Services

Photo Source: Stella’s Place for Young Adult Mental Health

The best way to deliver effective mindfulness programs to youth is to train the people who serve them.  The training is thorough, including:

  • Development of a personal mindfulness practice;
  • Training to teach evidence-based programs;
  • Ongoing mentorship and support over 3 years, to ensure the trainees’ capacity in practising, teaching and sharing their knowledge.

This project builds on the success of two proven programs, mindfulness-based wellness (MBW) and mindfulness-based intervention (MBI), to train the front-line workers to deliver an integrated mental health program to their youth clients.

Over 65 front-line workers will participate in:

68 of the participating front-line workers are currently in the first stage of their training. They are taking part in the 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program. The next stage of the training is a 5-day Mindfulness-Based Wellness (MBW) Train-the-Trainer Intensive, beginning in June 2019.

  1.  The interventions can be delivered outside a clinical setting (clinical = mental health facilities and/or institutions), which suits a population often averse to entering the mental health system.
  2.  Mindfulness programs are best delivered in a group format, increasing the capacity to support this population and lowering the cost.
  3.  Maintenance is critical to the effectiveness of the program and the front-line workers can be trained to provide these supports within the community, again lowering costs.
  • 1,500 youth will benefit from mindfulness training. Research shows that mindfulness training cultivates self-regulation, relational, and problem-solving skills – skills related to positive outcomes in youth such as resiliency, improved cognitive functioning, and better social skills. Equipping at-risk youth with these skills will improve their well being and help them flourish.
  • 70 front-line workers will be trained in mindfulness to increase resiliency, grow skills and prevent burnout
  • Over 20 youth-serving agencies will be equipped to continue to offer these programs to thousands of their young clients
  • Three years of collaboration, community-building and coordination of services within and between agencies
  • Learnings and evidence from the program will support the development and funding of future programs across Ontario and beyond

This project has been made possible by:

If you wish to support our work, please donate here.  Please also consider participating in Mindfulness Challenge 2019.