COVID-19: remembering to be kind

This year's Mental Health Awareness Week to take account of the coronavirus pandemic 

The COVID-19 pandemic has inspired people to extraordinary acts of kindness, including shopping for vulnerable neighbours. Picture: iStock

For this May, the Mental Health Foundation was going to make sleep the theme of the 2020 Mental Health Awareness Week. Then COVID-19 came along and shook the world awake.

In response to COVID-19, the charity has announced a new theme, kindness, with a focus on how it affects our mental health.

Pandemic wrought changes to everyone's lives

The pandemic has wrought changes to our lives, personally and professionally, and to our societies, locally and globally, that were unthinkable to most of us six months ago.

And there has been personal tragedy, of course. But COVID-19 has also inspired people to perform many acts of kindness, whether by going shopping for a vulnerable neighbour, consoling a colleague, painting a rainbow for NHS staff or simply taking time to listen more actively to those who are anxious or who are alone.

‘Being kind supports not only other people. It is said to benefit us too, emotionally and physiologically, through a “helper’s high’’

As Mental Health Foundation chief executive Mark Rowland says: ‘Now more than ever we need to re-discover kindness in our daily lives. Kindness unlocks our shared humanity and is central for our mental health.’

Being kind supports not only other people. It is said to benefit us too, emotionally and physiologically, through a ‘helper’s high’. So, acts of kindness are also acts of self-kindness if you like, a way of taking care of ourselves during difficult times.

Let us not forget the mental health nurses who lost their lives during the pandemic

Remembrance can be an act of kindness too, especially to those who are bereaved.

Here I’m thinking in particular of the mental health nurses who have died in recent months after being tested positive for coronavirus. These have included: from Swansea University, lecturer in mental health nursing Brian Mfula; from Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s Derby City community mental health team, Gladys Mujajati; and, from Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust, matron for older adult mental health services Sara Trollope.

Let us remember their courage and kindness, and to be kind, now and in the future, when coronavirus is just a memory and we can all sleep more easily.

View our COVID-19 resource centre here