1. This randomized control trial evaluated a mindfulness- and compassion-based program (MCBP) for university students.
2. Significant improvements were seen in measures of stress and self-compassion as compared to controls.
Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Good)
Approximately one third of university students are diagnosed with mental illness. Concerningly, risk of mental illness has increased for this population during the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic. Associated low rates of mental health support in postsecondary students are partially due to inaccessibility and lack of adequate treatment programs. Interventions focused on mindfulness and self-compassion have previously been effective in reducing symptoms of mental distress. Accordingly, a mindfulness- and compassion-based program (MCBP) may help reduce the burden of mental illness on university students.
The present randomized control trial assessed mental wellness parameters in students enrolled in MCBP as compared to controls. The MCBP consisted of six weeks of an instructor-led program and at-home meditation. University students were included who were enrolled in a psychology degree program. Students who previously engaged in meditation practices were excluded. Outcomes were assessed using the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12), Five Facets of Mindfulness Questionnaire-Short Form (FFMQ-SF), Experiences Questionnaire-Decentering (EQ), Self-Compassion Scale-Short Form (SCS-SF), and Acceptance and Action Questionnaire-II (AAQ-II).
A total of 30 participants were included, with 15 students in both the control and study groups. The MCBP group improved significantly compared to controls on all outcome measures (p<0.001). Participants in the study group also improved their mindfulness skills (p=0.005), decentering (p=0.019), self-compassion (p=0.005), and experiential avoidance (p=0.002). The major limitations of this study included small sample size and relying on students to accurately report at-home meditation. Overall, the results suggest that MCBP may represent an effective method for reducing mental distress in university students.
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