Almost three-quarters of UK 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 to mark the start of Mental Health Awareness Week, which this year has the theme of Kindness.
Two-thirds of people say that when others are kind to them, it has a positive impact on their mental health, according to the survey of 4,256 UK adults aged 18 and above.
Two-thirds of UK 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 (LINK) and a policy paper (LINK) making recommendations on how kindness can be turned into action.
Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation Mark Rowland 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 UK 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.”
Simon Blake, Chief Executive of Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England said: “We have trained over 500,000 people in mental health skills and since the start of the pandemic we’ve heard some incredible stories of kindness and support. From over 200 Mental Health First Aid England Instructors volunteering for the NHS Frontline service for staff and carers, to Mental Health First Aiders supporting colleagues, friends and one another during this crisis.
“Covid-19 has disrupted our lives but also shown our potential for huge acts of kindness, both as individuals and, critically, at an organisational level. Businesses have donated essentials to key workers, workplaces have fundraised for struggling charities, and companies have quickly adapted to create vital products for our NHS.
“Adjusting to a new normal will take time, focus and energy. Every employer must recognise the importance of a robust mental health and wellbeing strategy, which places kindness at its heart. Employers have a duty of care to support the many people continuing to work from home, and to help those transitioning back to physical workplaces and protect psychological safety as they do. For the sake of every individual’s wellbeing and for the continued survival and fight back of businesses and the economy we must ensure mental health is at the top of the Boardroom agenda.”
The survey also found that almost half of UK adults (48 per cent) said being kind “to myself” had a positive impact on their mental health.
The charity is making a series of recommendations on kindness. They include recommending that all Government departments apply a measurable, values-based kindness test to current and new policies. This is to ensure they are informed by kindness, equality, dignity and respect.
Mr Rowland added: “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 welfare services, our justice system and our health system. 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.
Visit mentalhealth.org.uk/mhaw for more information.