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Can Mindfulness Help Decrease PTSD After School Shootings?

May 18, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO—Incorporating mindfulness into school curricula following school shootings could help decrease the emergence of post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a study presented at the American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting.

Poster presenters Zhong Ye-Bates, MD, and Michael Shapiro, MD, of the University of Florida College of Medicine’s psychiatry department wrote that the strategy is “systematic, evenly distributed and sustainable.” The social support and counseling typically provided after school are often unevenly distributed and are difficult to sustain over time, they noted.

Experiential avoidance and dissociation are strong predictors of post-traumatic stress following traumatic event, the study reported, and mindfulness is based on awareness and acceptance principles that help patients decrease experiential avoidance and thought suppression.

In the literature review, the authors explained that school-based mindfulness has been successfully incorporated into varying types of schools following natural disasters, abuse situations, and shootings. The results of the interventions have been similar, they wrote: reduced stress related to the event, anxiety, rumination, depression, negative coping, self-hostility, negative affect, post-traumatic stress symptoms, suicidal ideation, and self-harm.

Mindfulness curricula have also been shown to improve emotional regulation, sleep, regulation of stress levels, learning, classroom behavior, and attention, the study found.

“Continued research, such as pilot programs or trials, would be helpful in providing evidence that these programs are effective specifically for PTSD relating to school shootings. In the wake of increasing school shootings, it is imperative for mental health providers to be involved in trying to make that happen,” the study authors wrote. “Incorporating mindfulness into a school curriculum is one way to help survivors develop effective coping skills, decrease the emergence of PTSD and ultimately, resume learning and achieving.”

—Terri Airov


“Exploring school-based mindfulness to decrease PTSD following school shootings.” Abstract presented at: the American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting; May 18, 2019; San Francisco, CA.


Submitted byNancy on May 20, 2019

I also come across the following meta-analyses on the effectiveness of mindfulness for post traumatic disorder - it presents neurobiological evidence as well:

Boyd, J. E., et al. (2018). Mindfulness-based treatments for posttraumatic stress disorder: a review of the treatment literature and neurobiological evidence. Journal of psychiatry & neuroscience: 43(1), 7.

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