Random acts of kindness have been a defining characteristic of communities surviving lockdown and provoked a surge in hopes for a more considerate society to emerge as a result, proving that kindness matters.
In its truest guise, kindness is an impulsive gesture that comes from the heart and has the unique ability to bind people together. In our previous pre-Covid fast-paced world, there seemed little time to consider much outside our own bubble and as a result kindness often inadvertently took a back seat.
Now it would seem that isolation is bringing out the best in people and despite being forced apart, previously fractured communities are finding ways to come together and help each other out.
Our behaviour has expanded outwards to embrace those around us and to offer physical as well as emotional means of support wherever we can. Community whatsapp groups; dropping off shopping; sitting on the doorstep talking to the elderly and isolated – small acts that have made a big difference to many.
It is this sentiment of solidarity through kindness that sits at the heart of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week (18th-24th May 2020).
Mark Rowland, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation describes kindness as “The cornerstone of our individual and collective mental health” and “something that all human beings need to experience and practise to be fully alive.” The notion that kindness is an antidote for our wellbeing is heart warming in its simplicity but research results from the foundation revealed that almost two thirds of UK adults said that when people are kind of them, it has a positive impact on their mental health.
The present and potential longterm impact of this lockdown upon our mental health is well documented and from a parenting perspective, this is particularly pertinent when considering our teenagers and young people.
Research has shown that one in five young people suffer from a mental illness, nearly half of which manifest by the age of 14 and a staggering 75% by the age of 24.
This figure is expected to rise dramatically as a result of the pandemic, as many struggle to cope with the restrictions placed so abruptly on their freedom and the curtailed lifestyles they are forced to live as a result; particularly at a time when many would habitually be making plans to spend more rather than less time with their friends. Putting in place coping mechanisms has become a priority for parents as well as teens themselves.
We have a responsibility as parents to be alert now more than ever for signs of a downturn in the wellbeing of our youngsters and ensure we act sooner rather than later.
This is made somewhat easier (and I use that term loosely) by the fact that the 21st century young generation is defined by its vocalness, its confidence in talking freely to friends and family about its troubles and being heard. With this has come a new age of teenager that is earnest about looking after their mental health in a truly holistic sense and actively asking for and welcoming support where necessary is an important part of that.
This openness is of course in part due to the very visible work of many charitable foundations such as the Mental Health Foundation, the Teen Mental Health Organisation and YoungMinds who have made it their mission to make sure that young people are supported and empowered enough to acknowledge when they need help and not to just say “I’m fine.”
Prevention is better than a cure is central to many a healthcare message and the protection of our mental health is no exception. After all, when we have good mental health we function at full capacity in all aspects of our lives.
There are, however, also many others working hard through acts of kindness to make a difference in their own way and support those organisations there to help with our mental health, whether by volunteering or fundraising and sometimes it is those more humble of actions that warrant the biggest plaudits.
Specifically in terms of our teens, fellow blogger Susie at S.H.I.T (So Happy In Town) used her creative blog title on t-shirts bearing the slogan IT’s OK TO FEEL SHIT to raise money last year for Young Minds, whilst simultaneously raising awareness of the plight of our young people struggling with mental health illnesses.
Fuelled by her success and a desire to do more, Susie is back this year with a new bolder range of t-shirts and tote bags. 100% of the profits go to Young Minds who are #FightingFor a new era where mental health support is available to every young person who reaches out. The figure raised now sits at £12,000. A significant sum for a mum at home with a passion for the health of our young people.
Businesses of all kinds are suffering during this pandemic crisis, but sadly the biggest impact has been upon our charities as family budgets have become more restricted.
I can’t speak for everyone but without access to the outside world as I knew it before, my consideration of what I “really need” to spend money on has shifted considerably and my priorities are perhaps less superficial than they were pre-Covid.
It is a time to step up our charitable contributions not decrease them and a focus on our mental health is surely worth more than the latest hit dress on the high street that we can’t even visit.
Another young woman making a contribution to the well being of our teens is the founder of Livvy B Bedding, a small company based in West Sussex dedicated to making beautiful and stylish bedding sets for teenagers that are all ethically sourced.
But that is not all, LivvyB is a teenager focused brand with a difference. Beset by problems herself as a teenager Livvy has linked with adolescents and young adults who might be suffering from a challenging time in their lives, on her designs. She says “Success is not defined by exam results, being in the team or being cast as the main part in a play. Success is defined by pursuing what makes you happy.”
Livvy’s aim is to promote confidence and boost self-esteem through the creative process. Not only are teenagers involved in the design and production of the products but the company has teamed up with Mind.Org to support teenage mental health, with 10% of sales donated to the charity increasing to 20% during Mental Health Awareness Week.
Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury has spoken often and openly about his own mental health challenges and ahead of Mental Health Awareness Week he reiterated the importance of paying attention to increased anxiety levels across all generations and the consequences of not doing so.
Many battle with their mental health at some stage and I have witnessed those of my teens up close and personal over the past couple of years, but in doing so I am always mindful of those with bigger challenges. Suzanne at Inside, Outside & Beyond is frank in her discussions about her daughter’s mental health, the impact on her as a mother and their family. In this week of remembering the value of looking after our mental health and looking out for those around us, the stories of others give us cause to reflect.
We all deserve good mental health and together we can make a difference. There are no rules, no boundaries just an age of acceptance that will hopefully change the way we all lead our lives going forward.
Editor’s Note: Thank you for reading and please do leave a comment with your thoughts. X