By Lydia O’Kane
There is a quote that says “Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.”
At a time when people around the world are still facing social distancing restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, carrying out an act of kindness can make a huge difference.
From 18-24 May, the UK is observing Mental Health Awareness Week, which is being organized by the country’s Mental Health Foundation.
This year the Foundation has chosen “Kindness” as its theme because “of its singular ability to unlock our shared humanity”, and “to celebrate the good will being shown by people at this difficult time.”
It also noted that “people who are kind and compassionate see clear benefits to their wellbeing and happiness.”
Mental Health amid pandemic
Speaking about Mental Health Awareness Week, Bishop Paul Mason, lead Bishop for Healthcare and Mental Health in England and Wales acknowledged “the tremendous kindness pouring forth in communities across the country.”
He also thanked everyone “who is helping to look after the mental health of their loved ones, friends, neighbours and strangers”, during this challenging time.
Talking to Vatican Radio, the Bishop underlined that, for people who can’t easily get out and who are on their own, any form of human contact, whether it be making a telephone call or video conferencing can be a real help.
“Even if it’s just a checking in with someone… that can make a huge difference and I think it’s very important”, he said.
Stigma attached to Mental Illness
According to the UK’s Mental Health Foundation, people who suffer from mental health problems say that the social stigma attached to mental illness can make their difficulties worse and make it harder to recover.
Asked if society’s perception of mental illness had changed in recent years, Bishop Mason noted that it was changing for the better, and that talking about issues surrounding mental health has been one of the big changes in recent times.
“We’re learning a language to speak about the nature of mental illness. We can talk about broken arms and broken legs but perhaps we haven’t got the vocabulary to talk about when we’re broken mentally...”
The Bishop pointed out that having prominent people who have come forward to talk about their own mental health problems has helped to reduce the stigma attached to mental illness and can give others the courage to come forward and “express the difficulties they are experiencing themselves.”
Listen and understanding
It’s estimated that around 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. Research also shows that depression is the leading mental health problem worldwide.
Bishop Mason noted that it is important to be able to identity types of behavior and to know how to respond to someone who is experiencing mental health problems.
He also said that listening and showing understanding can be a “very good starting point”.
Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK runs until May 24.