Over the past year over 70 parliamentarians and staff have enrolled on mindfulness courses. Image courtesy Shutterstock.com

All Party Parliamentary Group to study the benefits of bringing mindfulness into public policy

Ruby Wax will join experts and parliamentarians to launch an all party parliamentary group on mindfulness in the Houses of Parliament today.

Following growing scientific evidence on the use of mindfulness to combat depression, stress and improve well being, the group will run a nine month inquiry into the potential role mindfulness could play in areas of public policy such as health, education and criminal justice.

Over the past year, a series of mindfulness courses have been delivered in Parliament and over 70 parliamentarians and staff have enrolled on the courses. Chris Ruane MP (Labour), Tracey Crouch MP (Conservative) and Lorely Burt MP (Liberal Democrat) are co-chairs.

Mindfulness is a way of developing sustained attention that is purposeful, in the moment, and non-judgmental. The practice draws from ancient contemplative traditions but has been developed into an eight session training programme for contemporary secular contexts.

Mindfulness courses are now being offered by the NHS in many parts of the country as a treatment for a range of mental health issues following its recommendation by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence. Recent scientific studies have shown a 50% reduction in the risk of relapse for those suffering from depression.

Mark Williams, Wellcome Principal Research Fellow at the University of Oxford and Professor of Clinical Psychology, said: “The APPG is a hugely welcome development as we work to bring the benefits of mindfulness to millions.  The APPG will emphasize evidence-based policy development in critical areas of life, starting with health, education and criminal justice. Colleagues in Oxford, Bangor and Exeter have been studying as clinical scientists where mindfulness has the greatest benefits and why it has the effects that it does. The first step is always to look at what works but the vital next step is then to implement the results of the scientific discoveries so all can benefit.  The APPG will help public policy to keep up with the science.”

The Mindfulness APPG is supported by The Mindfulness Initiative, a coalition of Oxford, Exeter and Bangor Universities to advocate for a better understanding of mindfulness as a low cost intervention and its potential in a range of public services.

Willem Kuyken, Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Exeter said, "The Mindfulness APPG provides a vehicle to carefully consider the evidence base as well as consider how best to maintain the integrity of mindfulness and the contemplative traditions from which it draws. It will also look at how best to disseminate mindfulness-based approaches as the demand grows."

Rebecca Crane, Director, Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice, School of Psychology, Bangor University added, “There is an expanding interest in the societal applications of mindfulness training in a range of settings including the health service, education, the military and the justice system. Bangor, Exeter, and Oxford Universities have been at the forefront of research, teaching and training in this growing field. The APPG offers an exciting opportunity to bring policy makers together in conversation with academics and practitioners to consider how the evidence for mindfulness can inform policy”.

Date: 7 May 2014