Mental Health Awareness Week is taking place this week (18-24 May 2020). The theme chosen by the Mental Health Foundation this year is kindness. The charity has chosen kindness because of its singular ability to unlock shared humanity. Kindness strengthens relationships, develops community, and deepens solidarity. It is a cornerstone of individual and collective mental health. Wisdom from every culture across history recognises that kindness is something that all human beings need to experience and practise to be fully alive.
This week, we are releasing daily interviews with key figures, having asked them, during these exceedingly worrying times, the following three questions:1) what stories of kindness have really impacted upon you personally; 2) when we are through this what can we learn from it, with regards to how we need to be kinder to the people around us and finally; 3) what do you want to see from the sector coming together and how can we collectively show kindness, compassion and support?
For our first interview, it was a joy to speak with Sarah Hughes, chief executive, Centre for Mental Health
1: There have been so many stories that have brought me to happy tears. I think this is where social media comes into its own, immediate access to the things that show the best side of humanity. I am a director of the Mental Health Collective and we have launched #KindnessbyPost for this difficult time, it is incredibly moving to see so many people share love and kindness with strangers.
2: There has been a growing movement over the last decade that has really amplified the role of kindness and compassion in daily life. It reminds us that as human beings; kindness is a completely natural and primitive response. Busy lives, illness and hurt all damage our kindness reflex, but when we give space to it, we realise it is not a chore. When we emerge from this horrific period in our lives, we must remember how we felt, how we yearned to be together, how we fought to stay connected even when we felt frightened and alone. This time is an opportunity to rest some stuff, a chance to recalibrate how we live and relate to others. I’m not prepared to go back to the old ways, this is our moment in history - we can turn this global disaster into a revolution for communities, families and workplaces, a time to remember humanity means love and solidarity with our neighbours.
3: I am part of big peer networks, and we have been side by side with each other as we have seen charities struggle and people we care about the most, despair. I think this will be another opportunity to rethink the social fabric of society and civil society leaders must engage and innovate. There are many political debates about the role of charities and services, too big to recount here, but there is a recognition that things will never be the same again.
I talk a lot about kindness and compassion, they are the things that brought me into this work. I remind myself and others everyday about the privilege of being a charity leader, the opportunity to really say something about those we care about, equality and values. I want to see high level conversations with policy makers, commissioners and leaders that start with the central purpose of the social sector, an absolute commitment to kindness and compassion as being central qualities of leadership - I mean look at Jacinda Ardern - now she is what I aspire to be!