It’s Mental Health Awareness Week 2020.
The theme for this year is kindness. And much like last year, I’m going to be digesting that theme with my thoughts today.
MY THOUGHTS ON KINDNESS FOR MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS WEEK 2020
Kindness has featured a lot in my mental health journey. Others showing kindness to me has helped in my low moments. Being kind to others gave me a sense of purpose which carried me through the dark times.
Progress on our mental health journeys is influenced so much by the kindness of others. Others choosing to be kind to us can give us positivity, a moment of happiness. Being unkind can hinder these journeys; those bullied, like myself, may relate to that.
Friends are my best example of help here. It’s been my friends showing kindness to me that’s helped me out the most. They are not family doing it out of love or professionals in a paid, formal setting. Instead, they’re doing it because they are kind and decent people.
These acts of kindness have been small, not big gestures. But kindness doesn’t need to be big to make a difference. Friends are understanding when I don’t go out. They can send me a text of encouragement when I feel low.
It’s this kindness, by being there when they don’t have to, which has helped my mental health immensely.
I would hope that we’re all able to relate to an act of kindness, someone doing something that made us feel good. It’s these small acts of kindness that can help so much on our mental health journey.
But being kind myself has also helped me a lot. It gave me a sense of purpose, something to do, and a reason to have self worth.
Talking to others about mental health, and being able to share words of encouragement was something I did to feel good. This started on the message boards at ChildLine. Responding to the messages and helping others there gave me a purpose and something to do. I wasn’t worthless. I had a reason to continue.
This then led to my mental health blog at 16 and to getting involved in this week today. Being there for people, being kind shows me that I have strength. It gives me a reason to carry on.
Being kind to others kept me going. Through the difficult moments, I was able to stay strong and continue going because I had a reason. To this day, blogging and getting involved and helping people in any way I can help me too.
But there’s one other type of kindness that’s often overlooked. So much of this week will be discussing the kindness of others. But it’s important to be kind to ourselves as well.
This so often ends up bottom of the pile. We put others before ourselves or don’t put ourselves anywhere at all. In my low moments, I wasn’t kind to myself. I’d still be able to help others, but I didn’t do anything for me.
We have to look after ourselves. That expression doesn’t have to be a negative one, connotated with selfishness, amongst other qualities we’d rather not have. Someone that looks after themselves is seen not to care about others.
But what about self care? It’s good to see this talked about more. Self care isn’t selfish. Instead of caring for others, you’re caring for yourself. Both are still valid reasons.
I justify this to you because I hear from people who say they’re not worthy of self-care. I’ve heard self-care called selfish. Taking time for myself helps my mental health so much, and it may help yours too.
The mental health community, bloggers and advocates like me often have our DMs open and are there to try and help others. Sometimes this can be overwhelming. In my low moments, I’ve had an inner conflict of my sense of duty to help others while not being in a good place to do so.
It’s okay to take that step back. Being kind to yourself doesn’t limit your ability to be kind to others. Being there for people all the time can be challenging; taking that time away can help you process and work through your thoughts, ready to help again.
#KindnessMatters to everyone. And sometimes we need to be more kind to ourselves. Being in lockdown has shown me, and hopefully you, that our best is good enough.
Maybe you’ve been attempting homeschooling, which started fine and then just disappeared into playing Fortnite and watching Netflix. Perhaps you live alone and have started having conversations with the furniture.
Whatever situation you’ve been in, you’re doing your best. And being kind to ourselves doesn’t just have to be a mental health self-care thing. It’s an everyone thing.
And as I close off this blog, I hope that reflecting on how kindness has helped me has also helped you somehow. Maybe you might want to try volunteering or helping out someone else. Perhaps you’ll want to be there for one of your friends more. What about having a Zoom cup of tea and checking in?
Or maybe people haven’t been very kind to you. Perhaps you don’t feel worthy of kindness. Why not try some self-care time by doing something you enjoy? Or talk to someone about what you’re feeling.
While you’re kind to others, and they are kind to you, don’t forget to be kind to yourself.
By Jake Symons
Jake Symons is an entrepreneur and passionate mental health advocate determined to share his story to help others. Alongside writing on this blog he hosts Mental Monday: Mental Health Live a biweekly intimate and unscripted conversation about mental health.