Today marks the start of Mental Health Awareness Week (18-24 May) and at a time, when so many of us are struggling and paying even closer attention to our, our loved ones and our community’s mental health, this year’s theme is a universal one — kindness. 

Championing the power and potential of kindness, the Mental Health Foundation thinks this year’s theme “could be the most important week we’ve hosted”. Not only does kindness have the “singular ability to unlock our shared humanity”, the Organisation emphasises, but its research also shows that protecting our mental health is going to be crucial to coping and recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The global pandemic has created lockdowns around the world, naturally yet devastatingly, resulting in panic and fear amid the unpreparedness and uncertainty. That’s why giving and receiving kindness  — and the feelings of love, comfort and reassurance that it brings — is so important to help us heal from its psychological and social impact. 

With the NHS, community acts — who could not be moved by the wonderful Captain Tom Moore — and both local and virtual groups offering support, Mental Health Awareness Week is also an opportunity to be grateful for acts of kindness and encourage kindness to reach every community in the UK.

It’s also a time to look to the future and consider what type of life, community and society we want to be part of after the Covid-19 pandemic — and how kindness will be a crucial element to get us there. 

The Positivity of Kindness

Kindness is defined as an act towards yourself and others, motivated by a genuine desire to make a positive difference. The Mental Health Foundation has found that the relationship between kindness and our mental health is a positive and deeply connected one. Its research findings show that kindness helps others feel good, reduces feelings of isolation and increases a sense of belonging, helps us to keep things in perspective, is contagious so it makes the world a better place, and also encourages self-care and love through doing kind things for others. 

Applying kindness can have a positive effect on our schools, working environments, families and wider communities. We saw the tragic consequences that the aftermath of the 2008 recession had on the most vulnerable people in our communities’ mental and physical health, reported by Sir Michael Marmot’s 10 years On report along with the Mental Health Foundations reports. And shining a light on the devastation that inequality causes. 

“This is not the hallmark of a kind society. We must not make the same mistakes after this pandemic,” The Mental Health Foundation urges. 

Mark Carney, the former Governor of the Bank of England, has said, “now is a time to put values above valuations. We must seize this time to shape a society that tips the balance in favour of good mental health, for all of us, but especially for those who are most vulnerable”

Kindness Brings Many Benefits

There are so many reasons to be kind. It’s not just a lovely warm and fuzzy-creating thing to do. I mean, yes, it is that, but scientific research studies noted by the BBC have also revealed that being kind and accepting kindness:

  • Makes you feel happy
  • Lowers stress and anxiety
  • Boosts our energy
  • Slows ageing
  • Is good for your heart
  • Supports your immune system
  • Reduces lower pain

…And can spread far and wide throughout your close social circle, community and even the wider world (just look at Captain Tom Moore). 

Speaking about the Mental Health Foundation’s new survey into kindness, Mark Rowland said: “At one level, kindness can be as simple as phoning a friend who is lonely or thanking a colleague for something they have done. However, to have a major impact on improving our mental health, we need to take kindness seriously as a society.”

We Value Kindness

In its research findings, the Mental Health Foundation highlights:

  • 63% of UK adults agree that when other people are kind it has a positive impact on their mental health. The same proportion also agrees that being kind to others has a positive impact on their mental health.
  • 67% of UK adults agree it is important to look after their own needs as well as be kind to others
  • 41% of UK adults agree that they try to make sure they make time to be kind to themselves 
  • 48% of the people surveyed said being kind “to myself” had a positive impact on their mental health
  • 55% of UK adults agree that it is important that politicians value kindness
  • 40% of UK adults agreed that it is important that politicians prioritise kindness in policymaking after the pandemic
  • 43% agreed it is important politician prioritise kindness in service provision after the pandemic

Throughout the week, the Mental Health Foundation is asking us to reflect on an act of kindness and share and pictures of kindness using #KindnessMatters and #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek, practise acts of kindness to yourself and others and share your ideas on how you think we could build a kinder society that would support our mental health using #KindnessMatters and #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek.

Mental Health Support

If you are struggling with your mental health, contact one of the many charities here to support us, including the Samaritans for confidential support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair.

Phone: 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline)