More than half of Scots are worried about the mental health of a loved one this festive season
Mental Health Foundation Scotland shares advice on the benefits of kindness to mental health at Christmas
More than half (54%) of adults in Scotland are worried about the mental health of someone they know* this Christmas according to a survey published by the Mental Health Foundation Scotland.
As we approach Christmas, significant numbers of people are expressing concern for the mental health of friends (31%) and relatives (37%), including partners/spouses (21%) and children (31%).
Lee Knifton, Director at Mental Health Foundation Scotland said: “2020 will always be remembered as the year of the coronavirus pandemic – but it can also be remembered, as a time when people and communities came together to show kindness and support to one another as we faced challenges and hardships. Our thoughts continue to be with others as more than half of Scottish adults have expressed concern about the mental health of someone in their lives.
“It’s important that we reach out to offer and ask for support if we suspect someone one is struggling or we ourselves are having a tough time. Loneliness and isolation can amplify our worries or anxieties, and chewing things over in our heads often makes things worse. Talking about your thoughts and feelings can help you work out what is really bothering you and what can be done about it. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to a friend or family member, you can also contact Breathing Space or Samaritans to talk in confidence.”
The YouGov survey of 1,002 adults in the Scotland commissioned by Mental Health Foundation Scotland, also found that more than a quarter of respondents (28%) reported that they were personally feeling anxious or stressed about the festive season while more than a third (37%) said they are feeling happy, hopeful or excited.
People in Highlands and Islands were least likely to be feeling anxious or stressed (16%) while Glaswegians along with people in Stirling, Perth and Kinross, and Fife were most likely to be happy, hopeful or excited (46%). People living in Glasgow and the Lothians were also most likely to be concerned about someone they know (61%).
Lee added: “Christmas time can often evoke mixed feelings among people and given the challenges and disruptions of this year, it is unsurprising that some people may be feeling anxious or stressed.
“At times like this, it is worth remembering the power of kindness. Research shows that an act of kindness can help someone feel appreciated and has the power to reduce stress, improve mood, self-esteem and happiness. It’s a gift that has the potential to protect our collective mental health.
“As a society, we have to start taking kindness seriously and acknowledge that kindness has a role in government and public policy. It will be essential in reducing the social, economic and mental health consequences of the crisis that could last for years to come.”
Five ways that kindness can help protect and improve your mental health according to Mental Health Foundation research:
1. Reach out to others – Reach out to someone who might be experiencing isolation or loneliness. Long-term loneliness is associated with an increased risk of certain mental health problems, including depression, anxiety and increased stress. By arranging a phone call, video chat or posting a note or a card you can help to combat this loneliness and make a big difference to how that person is feeling.
2. Give thanks – Research suggests that feeling grateful, particularly in response to someone else’s kindness, is associated with greater wellbeing and an increase in behaviours that benefit others. Taking a moment to reflect back on the small acts of kindness you have received in the past, can make you feel a little bit more positive. By thanking someone you’ll give them a boost too.
3. Be kind to yourself – In the Mental Health Foundation’s nationwide kindness survey earlier this year, only two in five (41%) people in the UK said that they actively made time to be kind to themselves. If things are hard right now, prioritise some “me” time, so you can relax and reflect on how you’re feeling and how your day or week has been so far.
4. Celebrate traditions – Even with the current restrictions in place there are still things you can do to keep a tradition alive while following government guidance. Whether it’s cooking a special meal or decorating the house, by maintaining these traditions you can provide an act of kindness to yourself and people close to you.
5. Think about alternative gifts – This year, the thought of gifts might feel stressful due to restrictions or money worries. Making time to call someone who you might be alone or writing a heartfelt message in a card is a thoughtful gift at this time of year. Giving your time to someone you care about, a worthy cause or donating to charity can help us feel a sense of belonging and connection with our communities.
For anyone very concerned about the mental health of a loved one, the Mental Health Foundation has published a guide on how to talk to someone about their mental health and how to help in a crisis - available here.
This year, the Mental Health Foundation is focusing its Christmas appeal on loneliness. The funds raised will help ensure that people have the advice and information they need to feel more connected and less alone. Visit mentalhealth.org.uk/donate-christmas-appeal for more information.
*Someone you know includes partners/spouses, children, friends, relatives, neighbours or someone else.
Notes to editors:
Interviews are available on request.
For further information and interview requests please contact Claire Fleming at Mental Health Foundation Scotland:
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,002 adults in Scotland 18+. Fieldwork was undertaken between 24th – 26th November 2020. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all Scottish adults (aged 18+).
Breakdown of responses by Scottish Region:
Adults feeling anxious or stressed about the festive season (%)
Adults feeling excited happy or hopeful about the festive season (%)
Adults that are worried about the mental health someone else this festive season (%)
(Edinburgh, Mid Lothian and West Lothian)
(Clackmannanshire, Falkirk, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire)
North East Scotland
(Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Angus, and Dundee)
Highlands & Islands
(Highland, Moray, Orkney, Shetland, Argyll & Bute, and Eilean Siar)
(Scottish Borders, Dumfries & Galloway, East Ayrshire, South Ayrshire, North Ayrshire and East Lothian)
Mid-Scotland & Fife
(Fife, Perth & Kinross, Stirling)
(East Renfrewshire, Renfrewshire, East Dunbartonshire, West Dunbartonshire, and Inverclyde)
To see the Mental Health Foundation’s policy and research papers on the connections between kindness and mental health click here. Kindness was the theme of Mental Health Awareness Week 2020. For more information visit mentalhealth.org.uk/kindness or use #KindnessMatters on social media.