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  • Writer's pictureFiona McNally

Mental Health Awareness Week - Kindness

Hosted by the Mental Health Foundation, this week (18-24 May 2020) is Mental Health Awareness Week. The theme chosen this year is Kindness, which the Mental Health Foundation describes as the ‘cornerstone of our individual and collective mental health’.

Why Kindness?

The Mental Health Foundation chose the theme of kindness ‘because of its singular ability to unlock our shared humanity. Kindness strengthens relationships, develops community and deepens solidarity’. Wisdom from every culture across history recognises that kindness is something that all human beings need to experience and practise to be fully alive.

The response to the current pandemic shows that all over the world, kindness is prevailing in uncertain times. Amid the fear, there is also community, support and hope. The added benefit of helping others is that it is good for our own mental health and wellbeing; it can help reduce stress and improve emotional wellbeing.

As inequality rises in our society, so does the impact on the mental health of those most affected. Children and young people in the poorest parts of our country are two to three times more likely to experience poor mental health than those in the richest and life expectancy is falling for the poorest for the first time in 100 years. After the 2008 credit crunch it was the most vulnerable in who experienced the severest consequences, with devastating effects on their mental and physical health. Practising kindness is an important step to ensure the same does not happen again as a consequence of the current global crisis.

What is Kindness?

While kindness can mean different things to different people, essentially kindness is defined by doing something towards yourself and others, motivated by genuine desire to make a positive difference. Research shows that kindness and our mental health are deeply connected. Kindness is an antidote to isolation and creates a sense of belonging. It helps reduce stress, brings a fresh perspective and deepens friendships. Kindness to ourselves can prevent shame from corroding our sense of identity and help boost our self-esteem. Kindness can even improve feelings of confidence and optimism.

Despite its benefits, kindness is an intrinsically risky endeavour. It can risk us looking foolish or being taken advantage of, which is why we sometimes retreat. To receive or to give kindness is an act of courage. Hopefully, with Mental Health Awareness Week’s focus on kindness, you may feel supported to take that brave step and harness the benefits for both giver and receiver.

Kindness Matters

Mental health problems can affect anyone, at any time. Mental health is everyone’s business and kindness is everyone’s business too. One act of kindness can lead to many more. This week I will be posting thoughts, ideas and suggestions with a focus on kindness to hopefully inspire you to discover your connection to others and, not forgetting, to extend kindness to yourselves.

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