The consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic can be overwhelming but also vary from person to person. For some, the virus barely registers, for others the impact is devastating for the individual, their family, and friends. And as we move forward through these difficult times, one can see the fall-out from this is going to be far reaching in this global village in which we all live.
The character Blanche Dubois in Tennessee Williams’, A Streetcar Named Desire needed hospital care for mental illness after she had experienced many difficult life events and trauma, which left her feeling alone and isolated. When she finally gave in to the reality of her situation, recognising her need for professional help, she said ‘I have always relied on the comfort of strangers’. Kate Adie, the war correspondent adopted this quote for her first book, having found herself in dangerous places, potentially alone, but often looked after by people she had never previously met.
This week, Mental Health Awareness Week, the theme is kindness. There has never been another time in most of our lives where so many people are relying on others - family and friends, as well as strangers. Communities galvanise to help neighbours with shopping, prescriptions, even dog walking. Nurses, doctors, social workers, care home staff look after the vulnerable.
The benefits of being kind
Kindness, the effect of being friendly, generous, and considerate, costs nothing, but the impact of kindness on an individual can be immense. Not only does it affect how we feel but it also affects us physically. Hormones are released and stress levels are lowered in measurable ways. Mood is enhanced and anxiety and depression improve.
In the competitive world in which we live kindness at work is rarely prioritised. Success gets centre stage. Last month King’s was ranked top 10 in the world for societal impact, something all who work here can be proud of. What an achievement. It is difficult though to savour this achievement when people are struggling to manage working at home and juggling childcare, and the future is so uncertain. We are all adapting to a new normal, changing, and finding new ways of working at high speed. The energy going into this is hugely impressive. Just for a moment though, it is important to take the opportunity to stop for a minute; slow down a little and reflect on our achievements collectively. How rare it is for us to give ourselves credit, so let us be kind to ourselves and each other!