A WEEK OF MINDFULNESS
What is the problem?
There are roughly 1,800 youth living on the street each night in New York City; but this figure captures only homeless and street-involved youth. There are nearly 12,000 “Vulnerable Youth” living in foster care, group homes or in high-risk family situations. Nearly 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBT.
These vulnerable youth are likely to drop out of school, have violent encounters, become pregnant, contract HIV, abuse drugs/alcohol and contemplate suicide. Nearly 55% of trans-youth attempt suicide at least once. LGBT youth face approximately 14 times the risk of suicide and substance abuse than other youth. Very few have access to holistic tools for managing their anger, fear, anxiety and depression.
Why Mindfulness? Why now?
February is a difficult month for most Americans; up to 10% of Americans suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as the “Winter Blues.” In February, rates of depression, anxiety and suicide increase. For youth, this up-tick is even more marked. In late December 2014, Leelah Alcorn, a trans-youth, committed suicide sparking a national debate about how to support LGBT-identified youth, particularly high risk youth living in shelters and on the streets. One direct solution to combat depression amongst vulnerable LGBT youth is to offer meditation and counseling in shelters and group homes.
How will it work?
To combat this unhealthy trend, the Reciprocity Foundation hosted the inaugural Week of Mindfulness from Feb 5-15th, 2015. Now, we offer Mindfulness programs throughout the year; a team of Reciprocity staff and trained meditation instructors visit 40+ drop in centers, shelters, health clinics and schools targeting homeless and vulnerable youth each year.
By offering group meditation classes and individual counseling in all five boroughs of New York City, we directly target youth at risk of depression and/or suicide and offer them direct support, referrals and a meditation coach.
What makes Mindfulness Week unique?
First, all sessions will be taught by some of the best meditation teachers in New York City including:
-Kadam Morten Clausen, Kadampa Meditation Center
-Lodro Rinzler, John Sennhauser, Shambhala Center NYC
-Ethan Nichtern, Interdependence Project
-Gina Sharpe, Insight Meditation Society
-Eddie Stern, Urban Yogis/Ashtanga Yoga Institute
-Greg Snyder, Brooklyn Zen Center
Each instructor leads a guided meditation and then talk to the youth about how mindfulness practice can help resolve conflict, combat depression and improve health. These conversations are equally important as the guided meditations.
Second, we are targeting the most vulnerable youth in New York City, with a strong emphasis on LGBT-identified youth. LGBT youth make up nearly 40% of homeless youth and are disproportionately represented in this population.
Third, we will distribute special Meditation Cushions designed by youth to encourage ongoing practice. The cushion design and story is found at: http://youtu.be/_PE2JFDpfkY
To host a Mindfulness Week session, please contact Chelsea Hoagland, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Reciprocity Foundation is an award-winning nonprofit that has pioneered the implementation of holistic programs (yoga, meditation, healing) for homeless and vulnerable youth, most of whom identify as LGBTQ. www.reciprocityfoundation.org