Why we should focus on kindness beyond this week.
The theme for Mental Health Awareness Week 2020 is kindness. Kindness is a concept that everyone knows, but it is often hard to remember to be kind and why it is important to do so. This has been particularly important during the current pandemic, when we are seeing people pitching in to help each other.
Research has shown that being kind releases chemicals that improve our mood. Other than simply for our own benefit, there are many reasons why we should focus on going out of our way to be kind long after the end of this week. Kindness does not need to mean grand gestures or spending vast sums of money. Simply reaching out to someone or doing one nice deed are also acts of kindness.
Political and cultural discourse has become more divisive and combative recently, which is why it is more important than ever to make sure we encourage kindness, even when it may feel easier to fight. It may be easy to be discouraged when many people seem to be promoting hate and division, or disparaging groups of people. This makes it even more vital that we stand strong in the face of such conduct and engage in discussions about problems, rather than in conflict. Whilst it can be appealing to confront someone with an argument about why that person is wrong, the effects of this may not last long, and this can strain relationships. A kinder, and indeed more long-term, approach is to discuss and educate constructively.
We are seeing that leading politicians, for example the US President, are using divisive and hateful language for political gain. One of the reasons for this is that humans instinctively fear what they do not know, and are biased towards their own groups, whatever these groups may be. This has become more prevalent with the popularity of social media, and the need to react quickly. As people fear the impact of COVID-19, they are becoming more judgemental of differences. When people already feel threatened, confrontation will be counterproductive. We should make sure that as many people as possible have the resources with which to try to resist adopting more extreme beliefs in the face of such division.
In these times we should also not forget those who are, or are vulnerable to becoming, victims of crime, which can severely impact mental health. Those with mental health struggles are also more likely to be victims of crime. Such traumatic events result in long-term suffering, for which victims are reluctant to seek help out of fear of the stigma attached to mental health in much of society. We should be accommodating of any help they might need, and try to prevent such conduct from taking place in the first place. JAN Trust provides culturally sensitive resources and training on the issue of forced marriage. We also deliver workshops and training on how to recognise FGM, and then give victims the help that they need.
It is far better to be kind than unkind for the purpose of a victory, even though it can seem unfair to refrain from attacking when others attack. Engage and educate instead of striking. Here at JAN Trust, we engage with young people to help them understand the threat of extremism and radicalisation, and how this can be prevented, through the SAFE programme. Our Web Guardians™ programme empowers women to stop online radicalisation and extremism in their own homes and the community.
To find out more about our vital work which helps to alleviate mental health issues for women and young people, please visit www.jantrust.org.