“Kindness makes us feel more connected and more loved, it leads to conversations and positive interactions” 

As one of our client says, “kindness is infectious” and yet too often it feels hard to come by. 

We were delighted when the theme of Mental Health Awareness Week 2020 changed to kindness. Given the current pandemic kindness can offer respite, hope and can keep us going. 

We checked in with a couple of our clients, and our Deputy Manager Lauren Wallace to hear what kindness means to them, how they show kindness and why it’s an essential part of the work we do. Over to them... 

Lawrence on the importance of kindness 
"I haven’t been shown a lot of kindness in my life. When you are treated badly it affects the way you see yourself. I didn't expect kindness to be shown to me and I still find it hard to show kindness to myself. But I know what it felt like to be treated badly and I never wanted to do that to others. I would never lift a hand to my kids like what was done to me. 

Kindness is vital. Through being shown kindness from FLIC I knew someone cared about me. And knowing I had someone who cared meant I could change. It helps you to trust and to open up. This is my 6th year in recovery, and I wouldn’t go back. 

Showing kindness to others is what I live for. Sometimes living in the world and wanting so badly to help but not knowing where to start, that pain can hurt physically. COVID-19 has helped people reach out to each other more. It feels good to be able to help. 

I sometimes think it's a miracle I'm still here. You can't change the past and there's a lot I am still angry about. But if I can do something to help someone else, that's what I'm here for. That's what makes sense to me." 

Kerri’s thoughts on kindness: What difference does kindness make to you? 
"
If someone I wanted to confide in or talk to, if they weren’t kind it would put me off talking to them and put me into shut down mode. Whereby if someone showed kindness by a simple smile, offering an ear to listen, or simply even a tea or coffee, it would put me at ease and make me feel more comfortable to talk to them. It's literally simple acts of kindness like a smile or a handshake which makes such a big difference."

Does it affect your mental health? 
Kerri: "I would personally say it has a big effect on your mental health. We live in an interconnected world where everything we do affects other things. This is encouraging because it means that when you are kind, you are usually affecting more thajust the person in front of you. Kindness makes us feel more connected and more loved, it leads to conversations and positive interactions. All of which can help ease the sense of isolation that many people with mental health experience. 

From personal experience I suffer with anxiety and found it hard and still hard. However, by my support worker showing kindness, by always there for me, can see me whenever available, always offering me advice and support. This has had, and still is, having a huge impact on mental health as I've connected with them and trust them. It is the fact if knowing you are not alone and you have someone."

Why is it important for services to demonstrate kindness? 
Kerri: "It‘s extremely important as it builds trust makes it easier to connect with services. Makes you feel welcome. Gives you a sense of security, makes you feel comfortable and confident. It allows you not to put up a barrier to hold back."
 
How do you show kindness? 
Kerri: "By being friendly 
Generous and considerate 
Being a good listener 
Affectionate, gentleness 
Concern and care 
Giving a simple smile 
Holding a door open for someone 
Help others who need help 
Share silence with others."

FLIC’s Deputy Manager Lauren Wallace on kindness: Why is it important for services to demonstrate kindness? 
"
Kindness is the best equalizer and starting point for any positive relationship. So often our clients are against such judgment and negativity from themselves and others that simple, authentic kindness shines through and can be part of a really positive moment that stays with them. When a client walks in to a service, they can often carry a lot of anxiety and negative expectation, but a kind and non-judgemental attitude can really disrupt those preconceptions and worries and compel the client to think differently about services, hopefully creating a positive outcome."  

How has a client shown you kindness? 
Lauren: "I've had really lovely thank you cards which have been nice. Also at points where I have not been feeling 100% that day at work for my own reasons, and explain this to a client (who obviously has a million of their own worries), when they are receptive and caring and try and take my feelings on board, I feel that's really kind and thoughtful." 

Even though times are hard at the minute, kindness can help us cope, bring us together and offer a sense of hope. If you need somebody to talk to during this difficult time call Samaritans on 116 123, they're open 24 hours, 365 days a year.