The smallest act of kindness…

Tonia Mihill, head of Therapeutic Services, writes about how important kindness is to our mental health.

“A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions and the roots spring up and make new trees” Amelia Earhart

The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness week is kindness and it is a well researched, documented and felt truth that active kindness – what we do in the world for others – is helpful to our mental health and can even reduce physical pain!  It has also been shown that experiencing an act of kindness increases the likelihood that the recipient will offer one to another person.

Kindness is an obvious good in the world. However, it is important to remember that to be its best self, kindness requires the kind of values that MAP operates with – being person centred, skilled, valuing the individual and promoting social justice.

Helping a blind person across the road may seem kind but, unless you know that this is what that person wants, may leave them feeling used (to make you feel better) and patronised.  I’d say true kindness does not compromise the agency of the person receiving it and has to be an exchange between equals.

Anthony Ray Hinton was imprisoned for 30 years on death row for a crime he did not commit and his memoir ‘The Sun Does Shine’ is a moving testimony to the availability of kindness as a choice we can make regardless of circumstances. Anthony’s hard won ability to offer kindness not only to fellow prisoners some of whom had committed terrible crimes, but also to prison guards meant that he survived and grew as a human being, came to be loved and admired by all who encountered him.  And all the while he lived with the knowledge that at any moment the authorities could order his execution to proceed…

Kindness is passionate, compassionate, empathic, aware, warm, strong, vital and vibrant – qualities that can ignite and fuel good mental health in ourselves and others.

In these times when we can all feel powerless in the face of the Coronavirus and the suffering and restrictions it has imposed on our lives, it feels to me good to remind ourselves that we all possess the potent medicine and enduring light that is kindness.

“The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the greatest intention”  Khalil Gibran