A little kindness can be life giving. May 18 – 24 is Mental Health Awareness Week, supported by the Mental Health Foundation in the UK. The theme of 2020 is ‘kindness’. A soft word with a big heart.

Not everyone who is crying alone is contemplating suicide but how would you know? In some views, we owe one another privacy to express those ‘embarassing’ emotions. Most people moved to tears ‘apologise’ to whoever they are with and this illustrates that we are for the most part, not a society that welcomes tears.

It’s time that changed.

Families, Friends, Work Colleagues, all the little circles of life we inhabit, would be so much kinder if tears were calmly accepted as a genuine expression of a feeling that can be shared just as easily as a smile can.

Ellern Mede is one healthcare setting built on a foundation of kindness. What we do here is we ‘hold’ young people. Staff here know how to permit a young person’s feelings and emotions to be expressed. It’s only once emotions are acknowledged and expressed that we can begin to develop our  own personal strategies for dealing with the in a healthy way that encourages healing rather than further harm. If your or someone you love needs help, tell us.

This week, our staff and patients will be talking about the Mental Health Foundation’s global campaign about kindness and perhaps creating poetry and art of their own that expresses where kindness fits in to their healing and recovery from an eating disorder.

Wherever people interact, there are opportunities to help not just friends but strangers too with kindness. Take this story – ‘the girl in the bathroom’ from a schoolgirl who writes for a website called ‘randomactsofkindness.org’. She and her friends were popping in and out of a school bathroom to wash paint brushes, and at first, politely ignored a girl who was quietly crying in there. The writer plucked up courage to overcome her own shyness to approach and ask the girl if she was alright. The girl shook her head, ‘No’. She didn’t want to talk right then, but the two shared phone numbers and ended up texting most of that evening. Later, the girl in the bathroom admitted that the kindness prevented her from taking her life.

So back to this week: For one week each May, the Mental Health Foundation campaigns to start conversations.The aim is to make us all take notice of those around us who need a little kindness. The foundation says: “One thing that we have seen all over the world is that kindness is prevailing in uncertain times. We have learnt that amid the fear, there is also community, support and hope.

“The added benefit of helping others is that it is good for our own mental health and wellbeing. It can help reduce stress and improve emotional wellbeing.”

But there is a need, even in thinking of helping someone, to take care not to over-promise or take on more than we can deal with personally. The foundation recommends: “Don’t overdo it If you find that you are giving too much of yourself or have gone beyond your personal resources, think about taking a step back. We recommend starting small so that you don’t become overwhelmed or give more than you are emotionally or in other ways able to give.”

What are the challenges around us this May 2020? Research suggests inequality is rising in our society with harmful effects on both physical and mental health. Life expectancy for the poorest in our society is falling for the first time in 100 years. The poorest parts of the UK are two to three times more likely to experience poor mental health than those in the wealthiest. We are heading into a recession which could worsen this situation.

What can young people in a hospital do? Be a friendly face both in person and online. Listening without even giving any advice helps. When you feel ill know that those around you are being kind to you, accepting everything you are feeling. One day, you will be back in the community and you will have learned how to be kind to yourself. That’s one of most important types of kindness you can ever learn.

Some resources you can look at:

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week/get-involved

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/sites/default/files/MHAW20-Supporter-Pack_Final.pdf

https://www.facebook.com/mentalhealthfoundation

https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/kindness-stories/34-kindness-saves-a-high-school