Kindness and compassion during the COVID-19 pandemic

Geraldine Hamilton, HSCB, and Fiona Teague, PHA discuss the important role of kindness and compassion during the COVID-19 pandemic. To view our complete series of COVID-19 blogs, click here.

Kindness is contagious

As we approach the end of Mental Health Awareness Week in 2020, we acknowledge just how meaningful and important mental health awareness is to our society this year.

We are in a pandemic; an unprecedented time in our history. This has dramatically changed our everyday lives, and unfortunately some have experienced illness, and lost loved ones. Together we are experiencing isolation, fear, anxiety, low mood, and many more uncertainties and unknowns about now and the future. This year the theme for mental health awareness week is kindness and compassion.

Defining compassion

What is compassion? Compassion literally means: suffering together. When we feel and understand distress in others, compassion gives us the courage and wisdom to do something about it. It motivates us to help, to be kind, and to give and support others who are suffering because we know instinctively what they need to ease that suffering. This is what we have seen in our communities and in our workforce over the past two months. It has powerful energy. When there is so much around us that remains unknown, our compassion, kindness and humanity give us certainty and safety.

Being compassionate and kind is, however, not just about giving to others. We need to be compassionate and kind to ourselves, otherwise it is incomplete. We must try not to judge ourselves so harshly in our relationships, as parents, and in our jobs.  This is a time to appreciate who we are as individuals, to recognise and value our different strengths, and accept our common humanity. We are all less than perfect and we are all doing the best we can in the circumstances we find ourselves in.

Moving forward

As we begin to emerge from our locked down worlds, and we start to rebuild and resume our new regular lives, what will this experience have meant for those who lived with anxiety, fear and loneliness before COVID-19?

What will it have meant for those who have suffered so much during this pandemic that need help and support to heal and recover? Perhaps this experience will have gone some way to creating a kinder and more compassionate society; where it feels safe to speak openly of suffering, and to feel confident to ask for help and know we will receive it. Maybe we have started to create a culture where it is a sign of strength to show kindness and compassion, both to others and to ourselves.

We hear so much worry and concern about mental health and the impact on mental health services as a result of this pandemic. Perhaps this moment of compassion has given us the experience and opportunity to seek, grow, and create the mental health system our society needs, both now, and into the future.

To view our complete series of COVID-19 blogs, click here.

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