Mental Health Awareness Week - Theme: Kindness

Mental Health Awareness Week - Theme: Kindness

This year, the Mental Health Foundation’s focus for Mental Health Awareness Week (18-24 May), is captioned: ‘Kindness Matters’.

Sharon Platt-McDonald

"Your kindness has saved my sister’s life!" I was stunned by the comment made by the caller on the other end of the telephone. I asked her to explain. She reminded me about a Women’s Ministries Prayer Conference that she had attended, where I was the guest speaker. I had given out all the prayer publications that I had brought with me. In fact, she had received the last copy, and I only had my personal, well used, booklet with me, which I hastily returned to my handbag. She asked whether she could have it. Reluctant to hand over my only copy, which I used as a reference for my presentations, my heart sank at the request. However, as she shared a little with me about the urgent need, I felt compelled to give her the booklet. After all, I still had the original script on my computer, so could always refer to that in future if necessary.

Sometime later, I received a letter in the post and a lovely card from the young lady to whom I had given my booklet, explaining how the booklet on prayer had blessed her sister tremendously. However, this additional telephone call gave further information. She told me that she realised I had given her my personal copy, and saw my hesitation to hand it over, but was glad that I did. She explained her sister’s struggle with severe depression including suicidal thoughts, and how the booklet was received at a crucial point when her sister had wanted to end her life. Thankfully, as she read the publication, through God’s intervention, her life took an upward turn. I was shocked to hear that what she identified as an act of kindness, (which I realised was God’s prompting), had brought about such a transformation.

Kindness does make a difference

This year, the Mental Health Foundation’s focus for Mental Health Awareness Week (18-24 May), is captioned: ‘Kindness Matters’. There is much scientific evidence that demonstrates the health-enhancing effect kindness has both for the recipient and the person undertaking the kind act. These positive health impacts have been found to be both beneficial for mental as well as physical health.

In their video - ‘The Science of Kindness’, The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation *1 identifies a number of research outcomes on the physiological and psychological health benefits experienced by both givers and recipients of kindness.

On their website, The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation lists the following study outcomes:

Kindness increases:

  • Energy levels
  • Happiness
  • Pleasure
  • Lifespan
  • The ‘feel-good’ hormone Serotonin
  • The Love Hormone Oxytocin

Kindness decreases:

  • Anxiety
  • Blood pressure
  • Depression
  • Pain
  • Stress

Why kindness?

The Mental Health Foundation speaks about their focus on kindness this year.

“It may feel intuitive that kindness can help others, but there is a growing body of research to show that being kind also has benefits for our own mental health and wellbeing. For Mental Health Awareness Week 2020, the Mental Health Foundation has chosen to highlight and celebrate kindness, to others, to ourselves, and in society more broadly, as one way to promote and protect good mental health for all.” *2

In seeking to ascertain the mental wellbeing impact of kindness, the Mental Health Foundation undertook a recent survey in April 2020. They worked with YouGov to conduct an online survey of 4,246 UK adults aged 18+. Here are their concluding findings:

“We found that 63% of UK adults agree that when other people are kind it has a positive impact on their mental health, and the same proportion agree that being kind to others has a positive impact on their mental health.” 

As I analysed these findings, I thought back to the phone call I received from the young lady, about an act of kindness that she perceived had changed her sister’s life for the better. On the day that I received the letter and lovely ‘thank you’ card from this young lady, it had been a particularly stressful day, and I was not feeling at my best. However, as I read her handwritten letter and lovely ‘gratitude’ card, it certainly gave a boost to both my mental and emotional wellbeing that day. Her reciprocal act of kindness was certainly health enhancing.

Kindness’ broader impact

Another key quote from the Mental Health Foundation’s focus this week is this:

“Kindness goes beyond individual action. It is important for our communities, organisations, and political institutions. Kindness has a critical role to play in policy, and policies rooted in the values of kindness, empathy, dignity, and respect have great potential to reduce inequality and discrimination, and strengthen relationships and trust between governments, citizens, and society”*2

What I love about this statement, is not just the impactful wording, but the fact that the Mental Health Foundation has called the government to action, through their public campaign this week. They are calling on central and local governments and their respective agencies, allies and departmental bodies across the UK, to take what they call ‘preventive action’. Such action they feel, is rooted in justice and kindness, and is crucial in order to protect our nation’s mental health.

Personal reflection

So, how kind are you?

  • Take a moment to think about how your actions may have positively impacted someone else during the past week.
  • Have you ever undertaken a kind act, whether recently or even long ago (knowingly or unknowingly), where someone recounted to you the effect it had on them?
  • How did that make you feel?

The COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic has changed our world, possibly forever. Apart from the negative impacts of the virus, I have increasingly heard people comment on the positives that are emerging from this current crisis. One of these are the wonderful acts of kindness that we have seen expressed, during this season of lockdown, not just to friends, families, and neighbours, but also to strangers. It has brought much comfort, encouragement and hope: a definite boost to mental health. In some cases, kindness is literally saving lives.

The bible has a lot to say about kindness and its impact.

Proverbs 21:21 (ESV) states:

"Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteousness, and honour.”

This version of Psalm 11:17 is certainly one for reflection: “Your kindness will reward you, but your cruelty will destroy you" (NLT)

Being kind, matters!