NI people agree pandemic lesson is to be more kind

Over two-thirds of Northern Irish adults say it is important to learn from the coronavirus pandemic to be more kind as a society, according to a new survey.

The survey was published by the Mental Health Foundation to mark the start of Mental Health Awareness Week, which this year has the theme of Kindness.

68 per cent of those surveyed in Northern Ireland say that being kind to others has a positive impact on mental health, according to the survey of 4,256 UK adults aged 18 and above.

Sixty-four per cent of those surveyed in Northern Ireland say that when others are kind to them it has a positive impact on their mental health.

The charity has launched a report showing the evidence base for the impact of kindness on mental health and a policy paper making recommendations on how kindness can be turned into action.

Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation Mark Rowland said: “The evidence for the positive impact of kindness on protecting and improving mental health has always been clear. Our own survey has shown there is powerful support from the public for a kinder approach.

“At one level, kindness can be as simple as phoning a friend who is lonely or thanking a colleague for something they have done.

He continued: “The pandemic is an opportunity to do that. Kindness can play an essential role in reducing the social, economic and mental health consequences of the crisis, that could last for years to come.”

The survey also found that over half of surveyed adults living in Northern Ireland (53 per cent) said being kind “to myself” had a positive impact on their mental health.

The charity is making a series of recommendations on kindness. They include recommending that all Government departments apply a measurable, values-based kindness test to current and new policies. This is to ensure they are informed by kindness, equality, dignity and respect.

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Mr Rowland added: “We need to challenge the idea that kindness has no relevance to government and public policy. Instead, we want to start taking kindness seriously in how we shape political decision-making at all levels.

“Kindness has a role to play in how we run our welfare services, our justice system and our health system. To achieve this, we need to include a fundamental test for all existing and new policies – are they kind?

“We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to re-imagine a kinder society – one that protects all our mental health and especially that of the most vulnerable.”

The Mental Health Foundation organises and hosts Mental Health Awareness Week every year. The week runs from 18 to 24 May and is now in its 20th year.