The evidence for mindfulness: Mental Health Awareness Week #mhaw15


Now in it’s 15th year, Mental Health Awareness Week has covered everything from stigma, anxiety, exercise, friendship, alcohol misuse and work/life balance since it began in the year 2000.

The rise of social media has helped Mental Health Awareness Week become an important and popular part of the mental health calendar, and I’m sure this year will be no different as the topic chosen by those lovely folk at the Mental Health Foundation is very much the current mental health buzzword: mindfulness.

There’s this rather nice introduction to mindfulness in the Mental Health Awareness Week publicity materials:

Contrary to popular belief, mindfulness isn’t about emptying your mind of thoughts or “zoning out”, it’s about paying attention to the present moment, without getting stuck in the past or worrying about the future.

What you may be surprised to hear is that you have probably been mindful at some point in your life and didn’t even know it… Have you gone for a long walk, breathing in the crisp, fresh air and then suddenly realised that four hours have passed? Have you listened so intently to a song that for a moment, you weren’t thinking about anything but how beautiful the melody was? That’s mindfulness!

Moments of mindfulness may strike any of us at any time, but

Moments of mindfulness may strike any of us at any time, but mindfulness-based therapies offer a more structured approach to tackling health problems.

The evidence for mindfulness

We’ve blogged about mindfulness quite a bit over the last 4 years, so today we are presenting a review of these blogs, specifically aimed at readers who haven’t read much mindfulness research and want an overview of the field.

The dozen blogs we’re featuring cover a range of health problems, including anxiety, depression, substance misuse, psychosis, stress, eating disorders, adjustment disorders and the mental health of cancer patients.

  1. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy to prevent depression.
    André Tomlin presents the results of the PREVENT RCT published today in The Lancet, which investigates the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy compared with maintenance antidepressant treatment in the prevention of depressive relapse or recurrence.
  2. Mindfulness based group therapy for common mental health disorders.
    Mark Smith summarises a recent RCT of mindfulness based group therapy in primary care patients with depression, anxiety and stress and adjustment disorders.
  3. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy may reduce the demand for primary care visits.
    Can’t get an appointment with your GP? Don’t stress, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy may help by reducing the demand for primary care visits by distressed patients, according to a new study in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research.
  4. New meta-analysis supports the use of mindfulness for depression, but not anxiety.
    This study confirms that mindfulness based interventions (MBIs) are valid for the treatment of current depressive episodes, and it identifies the need for more studies to investigate the possibility that MBIs might also be of value in treating anxiety disorders.
  5. Watching what you eat: does mindfulness work for binging and weight loss?
    Helen Bould tells us that mindfulness may do many things, and is queuing up to take its place with CBT as the panacea of mental illness, but in her view it cannot yet lay claim to solving binge eating.
  6. Targeted mindfulness-based relapse prevention may support long-term outcomes for substance use disorders.
    Meg Fluharty’s blog summarises an RCT from JAMA Psychiatry on the relative efficacy of mindfulness-based relapse prevention, standard relapse prevention and treatment as usual for substance use disorders.
  7. Mindfulness-based stress reduction can alleviate stress and improve quality of life and mental health.
    This systematic review from the Campbell Collaboration suggests that mindfulness might help reduce work-related stress.
  8. Mindfulness moderately effective for reducing symptoms of psychosis, though controlled studies less convincing.
    Sarah Knowles reports on a meta-analysis of mindfulness interventions for psychosis, which finds little high quality research to support decision making.
  9. Mindfulness proves effective in depression and anxiety, but is not superior to traditional CBT.
    Elly O’Brien highlights a meta-analysis on mindfulness-based therapy, which shows how more consistent measuring and reporting of outcomes will improve the quality of evidence in this field.
  10. Mindfulness-based stress reduction works for patients with breast cancer.
    Kirsten Lawson summarises a meta-analysis of mindfulness-based stress reduction, which suggests that this intervention can improve mental health symptoms in patients with breast cancer.
  11. Mindfulness shows promise as treatment for health anxiety.
    Fabio Zucchelli reports on an RCT that provides preliminary support for the use of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy as an adjunctive treatment alongside the usual package of care for people with health anxiety.
  12. Should we be offering mindfulness-based cognitive therapy to all patients with residual depressive symptoms?
    André Tomlin presents the findings of an RCT which investigates how mindfulness-based cognitive therapy may help people with a prior history of depression.
The evidence about mindfulness does not currently live up to the hype around the intervention.

Mindfulness research does not currently live up to the hype surrounding the intervention. When will we see compelling evidence to match the publicity puff?

Get involved

We’d love to hear what you think of these blogs and mindfulness in general. Is this ‘flavour of the month’ getting more attention than it deserves, or will mindfulness eventually live up to the hype?

Are you aware of recently published high quality research about mindfulness? If so, please post a comment below with the reference(s).

You can get involved with Mental Health Awareness Week on social media by using the #mhaw15 hashtag on Twitter or Facebook, or by visiting the Mental Health Foundation #mhaw15 website.

If you’re looking for a nice simple introduction to what mindfulness is and how it could help you, then look no further than the Mental Health Awareness Week supporter kit (PDF).

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