This week is Mental Health Awareness Week (18 to 24 May 2020). The theme this year is "kindness".
“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” Helen Adams Keller
She was an American author, political activist, and lecturer. She was the first deafblind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree.
Mental ill-health can leave a person feeling they are suffering from loneliness and isolation and the fact that nobody understands what they are going through. It is the same for deaf people as every day they suffer from loneliness, bereavement and isolation from friends and family. Helen Keller said that “Blindness cuts us off from things, but deafness cuts us off from people.” And this is so true. But mental ill-health also cuts us off from other people.
By being kind to yourself and to other people, we can overcome at least some of the suffering to make sure people have good mental health and that society in Scotland is inclusive of deaf people.
Maya Angelou was an American poet, singer, memoirist and civil rights activist who died in 2014 aged 86. She lived through rough times including segregation in the USA.
Maya Angelou said
“If I am not good to myself, how can I expect anyone else to be good to me?”
We have to be kind to ourselves first and foremost. We need to look out for and look after ourselves so we can look after others. If we are not strong inside, it is hard to be strong outside and other people notice that.
Let’s practice being kind to ourselves this holiday weekend.
The Mental Health Foundation have produced a guide that includes how to be kind to yourself as well as to others: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week/kindness-matters-guide
See Me Scotland (https://www.seemescotland.org/stigma-discrimination/) talks about the importance of conversations. And how conversations are one of the most important ways of ending stigma and discrimination around mental ill-health. If someone has an accident. They spend two months in hospital and another three months in rehab, they talk about it freely. On the other hand, if someone has to go into hospital because of severe depression and is there for five months, there is still a stigma that prevents them talking about what happened to them.
The biggest kindness people can give others who have a mental health issue is to talk about their own experiences to help shatter the barriers that create the stigma and discrimination.
Just before our March 2017 conference, the Carnegie Trust published a discussion paper: Kinder Communities: The power of everyday relationships (https://www.carnegieuktrust.org.uk/publications/kinder-communities-power-everyday-relationships/) based on its own work and that of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. At our conference, Zoe Ferguson spoke about the work she had done looking at the impact of kindness on people and communities.
"The evidence shows that everyday relationships and kindness are fundamental to the wellbeing of individuals and communities. In an increasingly virtual world we still live in real houses, on real streets and rely on real people to make our lives work."
During the Covid-19 pandemic, we are relying more and more on the "virtual world" to keep in touch with others and to reduce our isolation during lockdown, but small acts of kindness can and do still take place.
- letting someone go before you in the queue for the supermarket because they are older, have a child with them or look tired; or
- Buy a neighbour a treat that was not on the list when doing their shopping for them; or
- Buy a neighbour a bunch of flowers or a big bar of chocolate when you do your shopping..
These can make a huge difference to the other person and it reminds them that they are not alone.
"deafscotland was well ahead of the curve...in 2017 at our annual conference, Zoe Ferguson from the Carnegie Trust spoke of the need for kindness to support mental health and wellbeing. Our keynote speaker that year was Maureen Watt MSP, the then Minister for Mental Health, who opened the conference and spoke of the need to reduce isolation. That is a huge issue for deaf people normally, but it is also an enormous issue right now for everyone, deaf and hearing, due to Covid-19. Stay safe and remember to be kind to yourself and others during this awareness week." Janis McDonald, Chief Officer