Kindness in a time of uncertainty

For this year's Mental Health Awareness Week, the Mental Health Foundation decided to focus on kindness.

The Foundation hopes to use the week to explore the sort of society we would like to see emerge from the current crisis we are all facing, focussing on the power and potential we all have to make even small acts that can have a positive impact on another person.

We reached out to our NCMH Research Champions to start a conversation around kindness and whether someone else’s actions ever had such a profound effect on them that they still remember to this day.

We collected a mix of responses, some older, when people were in the beginnings of their mental health recovery, and others more recent, where they have made a new type of connection with someone during the pandemic.

Hope

For me, that moment of kindness was when I was back in hospital.

A nurse, Mandy, realised how important it was for me to be able to start running again. She took a risk with me and took me running a few times a week. She listened to my fears around running as it had been a massive part of my illness and helped me to really understand the power of running for our mental health. Her taking the time to do this was a huge game-changer in my recovery and has helped me so much now!

head shot and quote from Hope

Lizzie

After suddenly losing my job at the optician’s (which had been a massive career change for me), I really struggled to settle into anything else and ended up going back into being a teaching assistant – a more than eight-year-long career, which broke my heart when leaving but I’d decided was no longer a good fit for me.

I’d accepted a permanent contract at a challenging school but after a day, realised I’d made a huge mistake and quit. I’d had a massive knock in confidence when I lost my optician’s job and although I hadn’t really wanted to admit it and wanted to carry on, was really struggling with both anxiety and depression.

 

I’d not long started dating Ben (who is now my boyfriend). Really early on, he’d found out about my mental health and said that he was there for me however I needed him – I’m open about it on social media as I believe that talking openly about it helps reduce stigma.

When he’d visit, he’d sit with me as I cried and just hold me really tight until I’d start to feel better. On one visit, he bought me a “pick me up” parcel including tea, chocolate and a toy llama- Kuzco G Llama.

Despite being 30, that llama has brought me so much comfort. The last time we saw each other, at the beginning of the ramping up of the Coronavirus measures, Ben rubbed some of his perfume on Kuzco as we didn’t know when we’d be together again. Just like he did when I was in my wobble, that llama is helping me get through this difficult time and helping me stay connected to Ben while we’re apart.

Zoe

I help to lead my local Beaver Scouts group, which welcomes children age six to eight.

children in a park

During the pandemic, I’ve carried it on via  Zoom as I think it’s really important to try and keep some routine for them. Just before the lockdown, I managed to get about six weeks of activities to them that way they’ve managed to carry on earning their badges.

Some days I’ve had 10 photos from them showing me all the things they have been doing and I honestly think it’s helped me more than the children.

It meant a lot when one of the mother’s recently got in touch to update me as to how her son is enjoying the sessions.

“Thank you for all your hard work. At a time like this, I think it has helped massively to my child to keep some normality in his life. When everything else has stopped it’s been a massive positive at a time which has unsettled him.”

Laura

I always felt really fortunate that my best friend Kirsty knew when I was up or down.

It was my birthday last year and I was not in a good way. Our families (our kids are the same age) are really close, me with her, the husbands and the kids. We went on an adventure day and she had brought a cake and candles to surprise me. While this is all lush, this isn’t the moment of kindness.

Two days later, I had a text from Kirsty saying that no matter what I said she was taking me to our local pub for a ‘date night’ that Saturday night. She had already told the menfolk and we were going out until at least 10pm (unheard of for us).

When we were out, she told me she was checking in on me, one-on-one. She explained that when they got home from my birthday the first thing Ben, her husband, had said to her was that she needed to spend some alone time with me as I wasn’t right and she needed to be with me.

Basically it was Ben. Ben, who is a really good mate of mine, understood my brain. He saw what I needed and made sure I got it. I’ve never forgotten that.

Mair

The kindness I’ve experienced has come from a friend who is a fellow gardener.

I usually like to go and browse garden centres and treat myself with plants for my garden. Obviously, this year that has changed and I have found myself in a plant deficit.

However, my friend, who’s garden is far more advanced than mine, has been taking cuttings, seeds and seedlings from her own garden and has been dropping them off for me (in a socially distanced way, of course!).

It has been really uplifting to be able to continue with my gardening and have amazing and beautiful plants, and it’s all because of the kindness of a friend.

Liz

I love spreading positivity and kindness and am so pleased that the Mental Health theme for MH Awareness week is ‘Kindness’. Kindness doesn’t cost anything and could change someone’s day.

I did a Happiness Challenge at work this year and 15 people signed up, which was great. They had to follow instructions to spread kindness and positivity in their daily lives. It was incredible what people did, it helped with their mind-set, made them feel good that they were helping people and also put a smile on someone else’s face.

Let’s all join together and make kindness part of our daily life and watch the difference it makes in the world!

Mental Health Awareness Week 2020

The Foundation’s research has shown that protecting our own mental health will be a key factor in us coping with and recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Showing kindness and compassion to ourselves is also critical during this strange and isolating time. Why not try our Self-care Bingo card to check-in with yourself during the week?

We’ll also be sharing some NCMH resources, old and new, which offer advice and signposting to where you can find support.

You can keep an eye out on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

What you can do to support Mental Health Awareness Week: 

  • Reflect on an act of kindness. Share your stories and pictures (with permission) of kindness during the week using #KindnessMatters and #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek
  • Use the Mental Health Foundation’s resources in your family, school, workplace and community to join with thousands in practising acts of kindness to yourself and others during the week
  • Share your ideas on how you think we could build a kinder society that would support our mental health using #KindnessMatters and #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek
Catrin Hopkins

Catrin is the Communications Officer for the NCMH and Cardiff University's MRC Centre.

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