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Reaching children with depression
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9 December 2005
Ten million children in America take antidepressant medication. Therein lie two terrible facts: first, that so many youngsters are diagnosed as clinically depressed; and second, that they are forced to take potent medications, most with known hazardous side effects. (In fact, the most widely prescribed antidepressant, Prozac, was just banned by the FDA for use among children because it has been shown to lead to suicide.)
A study on meditating children at a middle school in inner-cityDetroit—and the experience of their teachers and parents—confirms what previously published research has shown: The Transcendental Meditation program increases inner happiness, self-esteem, and self-worth and reduces anxiety and depression. The research results and the classroom experience suggest that this same program, offered to students on a wider scale, could well provide a nondrug antidote for childhood depression—or better yet, prevent depression in the first place. Here then, in brief, is the 'Nataki Story.'
'Transcendental Meditation is the most obvious and logical thing in the world: give the students an easy, practical way to help them to clear their minds, dissolve stress, and feel more self-confidence.' —Jane Pitt, TM program director, Nataki School
The Nataki Talibah Schoolhouse of Detroit is located in an old, three-story brick building in northwest Detroit, right off Seven Mile—a stark stretch of road of mostly boarded-up store fronts, churches, and liquor stores. There are steel bars over the windows and doors of the houses around the school—decorative but definitely protective.
But while the location may not be great, the Nataki charter school (K-8), founded 30 years ago by educator Carmen N'Namdi and her psychologist husband George, is outstanding. Nataki has earned a well-deserved citywide reputation for excellence, and the school attracts students—all of them African American—from all over Detroit. In fact, many of the city's government and civic leaders attended Nataki as children.
Since 1997, Ms. N'Namdi decided to introduce the TM program to students and faculty for one reason: she wanted to offer everyone in her school a simple tool to decrease stress and boost achievement. She continues to offer the program at Nataki each year for one reason: it works.
For those eight years, Jane Pitt has directed the Transcendental Meditation program at the school, where as many as 125 children (and 30 teachers) have practiced the technique together twice a day in the school gymnasium. She describes the scene that plays itself out every day as part of the normal school routine: 'A horde of active, energetic middle-school students come bounding into the gym, take a 'backjack' chair off the stage, and sit down in rows with their classes. They finish up conversations with friends, get comfortable—and the lights are dimmed. They begin their practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique and literally, within moments, the room grows deeply silent. Then, ten minutes later, rested and refreshed, they get up, put away the backjacks, and get on with their school day. By now, the whole process is just routine.'
The benefits of the twice-daily practice were immediate. 'Students said they were more focused in their classes, and teachers reported more energy throughout the day. Both groups noticed they had more patience in dealings with each other. Parents noticed the changes in their children, so they wanted to learn the TM technique themselves—and they wanted their other children to learn as well,' Ms. Pitt recalls.
Copyright © 2005 David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace
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