Almost three quarters of Scottish adults say it is important that we learn from the coronavirus pandemic to be more kind as a society – according to a new survey.
The survey was published by the Mental Health Foundation Scotland to mark the start of Mental Health Awareness Week, which this year has the theme of Kindness.
Almost two thirds of people say that being kind has a positive impact on mental health according to the survey of 2056 UK adults aged 18 and above.
More than six in ten Scottish adults also say that being kind to others has a positive impact on their mental health.
The charity has launched a report showing the evidence-base for the impact of kindness on mental health and a policy paper making recommendations on how kindness can be turned into action.
Lee Knifton, Director of Scotland and Northern Ireland said: “The evidence for the positive impact of kindness on protecting and improving mental health has always been clear. Our own survey has shown there is powerful support from the Scottish public for a kinder approach.
“At one level, kindness can be as simple as phoning a friend who is lonely or thanking a colleague for something they have done. However, to have a major impact on improving our mental health we need to take kindness seriously as a society. In particular, we need to make kindness an important part of public policy.
“The pandemic is an opportunity to do that. Kindness can play an essential role in reducing the social, economic and mental health consequences of the crisis that could last for years to come.
Leanne McKillop from Greenock is an example of someone who has brought hope and support to others through her own acts of kindness.
Leanne, who has lived with an eating disorder for most of her life, recently set up a recovery group for others going through the same thing and is continuing to support members during the pandemic, offering online group sessions and free yoga classes.
She said: “I had an eating disorder for most of my adult life and was in and out of hospital on many occasions to try and get help. Thankfully I got through it, but it was a huge struggle and I wanted to set up something for others going through the same thing. I wanted to show that If I can do it, they can do it too and that reaching out can make such a big difference to their mental health.
“I’ve been overwhelmed with the response and it’s great so many people are taking part. It’s fantastic to hear their positive feedback, but it’s a two-way thing and I’m benefitting from helping them as much as they are benefiting from taking part.”
Meanwhile Becs Barker and the villagers of Minard have been going out of their way to show kindness and help each other during the coronavirus pandemic. The small village of around 200 people, one of the hamlets between Inveraray and Lochgilphead, has many elderly residents who have been forced to shield and now face isolation and loneliness. They’ve introduced a range of ways to support each other, from a local Facebook group, online quizzes and a village ‘swap shop’ where villagers can stock up on essentials. And to ensure villagers see a friendly face each day, they’ve started a circular daily walk round the village which goes past the houses of everyone who is shielding to give them all a friendly wave hello.
Becs said: ”It’s great to be able to do something positive and it’s about much more than just a quiz or helping people with their shopping – it’s about relationships and ensuring people feel connected at a time that can be so isolating for many.
“We’ve elderly people in the village living alone and being able to just reach out and show a bit of kindness can make such a difference to someone’s day.”
The charity is calling on all Scottish Government departments and local authorities to apply a measurable and values-based kindness test to current and new policies. This is to ensure they are informed by kindness, equality, dignity and respect.
Lee said: “We need to challenge the idea that kindness has no relevance to government and public policy. Instead we want to start taking kindness seriously in how we shape political decision-making at all levels.
“Kindness has a role to play in how we run our social security services, how we treat people in our justice system and how we care for people right across health and social care. To achieve this, we need to include a fundamental test for all existing and new policies – are they kind?
“We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to re-imagine a kinder society – one that protects all our mental health and especially that of the most vulnerable.”
The Mental Health Foundation organises and hosts Mental Health Awareness Week every year. The week runs from 18th to 24th May and is now in its 20th year.
Mental Health Awareness Week is marked in different ways by organisations and individuals. This year the Foundation is asking people to share their stories of kindness during the Week on social media and also their ideas for how we can build a kinder society, using #KindnessMatters and #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek.
Key policy recommendations being highlighted for Scotland during the week were:
- Kindness in our economy – Scotland should publish its first Wellbeing Budget drawing on international experience and place wellbeing metrics on an equal footing with GDP.
- Kindness in social security – The Universal Credit advance payment should be made a grant while benefit sanctions, which often lead to poorer mental health, should be halted entirely.
- Kindness in justice – Scotland and the UK should pursue more recovery-focused justice. A public health approach should be pursued in tackling Scotland’s high drug death rate.
- Kindness in communities – Local authorities and the Scottish Government should reverse cuts to vital services and initiatives that many vulnerable groups rely on.
- Kindness in immigration and asylum – An end to all hostile environment policies and radical reform of the UK’s immigration and asylum policies to rebuild trust.
- Kindness in our health service – People in crisis or distress should expect to receive a kind, compassionate response from all healthcare settings, free from stigma or discrimination.
Notes to editors
The Mental Health Foundation is the leading charity for everyone’s mental health. With prevention at the heart of what we do, we aim to find and address the sources of mental health problems so that people and communities can thrive.
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2056 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 23 April to 1 May 2020. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all Scottish adults (aged 18+).