Marking the start of Mental Health Awareness Week, a national mindfulness charity announces today that a sixth form student from Huddersfield who was involved in the 2017 Manchester Arena terrorist attack becomes their first Youth Ambassador, having found vital support in her meditation practice following the bombing.
Emily Brierley was 15 at the time of the suicide attack, in which twenty three people died and 139 were wounded, more than half of whom were children. She says mindfulness and meditation changed her life. Having struggled to deal with the psychological trauma following the event she used mindfulness to learn to accept her feelings and accept what she was going through.
“Now, if I hear loud bangs, alarms, sirens, certain music or other things that could trigger difficult emotions I can be mindful of that and prevent those feelings from progressing. I have also been able to take many lessons away from the bombing and recognise how strong I am as a result.”
Emily first discovered mindfulness when she was 13 and suffering from anxiety and panic attacks. She now practices formal mindfulness meditation about three times a day for up to 30 minutes each time, which she says not only helps energise her but also allows her to be positive and grateful during the day. ‘I can feel a big difference in myself if I haven’t meditated’ she reports. ‘Sometimes, just taking a few deep breaths can make a big difference and allow you to bring yourself back to your body so you can recognize how you feel and what you might need in that moment.’
Since the bombing Emily has become a trained meditation teacher and has helped lead a mindfulness workshop for victims of terror at the Warrington Peace Foundation, which included those involved in the Tunisia beach attack, the London Bridge attack, the Warrington bombing as well as war veterans. She is now passionate about bringing mindfulness to more young people and using mindfulness to support people through difficulty and trauma, and will train to teach the Mindfulness in Schools Project (MiSP) curricula to other children in schools.
MiSP is a national charity which aims to improve the lives of young people by providing them with high-quality, research-based classroom lessons. They train teachers to teach secular mindfulness in schools, providing a life skill that children can come back to time after time to help them manage difficulty and flourish. Nearly 5,000 teachers have already attended their life-changing training, and their curricula is used worldwide, having been translated into 12 languages.
‘Mindfulness is an amazing tool for young people… to use to relax before an exam or be present in a classroom (for example) can then be your biggest means of learning about yourself as a person and also other people’ says Emily. ‘The way mindfulness stopped me comparing myself to others, creating drama, giving me clarity and focus and so many other things is priceless’.
MiSP is launching its Youth Ambassador programme to mark Mental Health Awareness Week and as part of its ‘A Million Minds Matter’ appeal, which aims to reach a million young people over the next five years.
To find out more, visit mindfulnessinschools.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org, visit their Facebook page or follow them on Twitter @dotbschools