The pandemic has caused problems that were beyond our understanding before 2020. Our lives flipped upside down, with everyone struggling with something, whether it be health, finances or relationships, it has not been an easy ride. But one of the major effects which are still rising is the Mental Health epidemic. Recent research from Charity Mind has shown that the number of people suffering from Mental health issues who hadn’t before rose last year. More people are reporting that they feel anxious or depressed and are afraid or nervous about the future, a result of being isolated or stuck at home, whether living alone or with family or friends they never expected to be locked down with. Mental Health is a huge concern, much research and discussion on the issue centres however on the aspects of self and how people view themselves, though a major way our self-image is shaped is based on how we are treated. By having such little in-person interaction, any time we go out to the shops or meet for a socially distanced walk, those short interactions we have with people outside of our ‘bubble’ become more significant, and it also means that negative experiences in public can cause a deeper effect on us. And right now, kindness is not the main thing on the agenda, kindness is being forgotten.
Social distancing, that mandatory two meters which seem to be taken as an absolute rigid law for some and a loose recommendation for others. People’s response to the rules often reflects their own fears and thoughts on the pandemic. While we’re all trying our best to stick to it, it can be hard and at times it is difficult to determine how far that distance may be. Not everyone is forgiving for those who accidentally misestimate the appropriate distance. If you’ve been in a public space in the past few months, you may have found the experience of someone criticising your distancing or being dismissive of how ‘slow’ you were shopping. Perhaps you yourself have been frustrated by how long it seems to take some people to shop or walk around a park. Of course, it can be annoying, but though most of us in the past have tried to keep quiet and move on, there have been more instances of open negativity towards those strangers who annoy us. This negative feedback from someone can stay with us all day and even haughty us for days on, that short interaction with someone may be the only one someone has and can shape their own mental state even if it was just one comment. Additionally, wearing a mask, though essential in fighting Covid, has also an unintended effect of causing a disconnect in social circumstances. We may forget how much we rely on facial expressions to express our feelings or react to people. Naturally, we may smile at someone who looks sad or we might try to make a comment about someone’s distancing less awkward by adding a smile. The addition of a mask hinders that ability for us to decipher how we respond to one another and continues to cause us to doubt whether we had been told off or just given a friendly reminder.
Loneliness is another unprecedented problem of the pandemic. Living alone can have a large effect on mental health. Those who once had active, busy lives confined to a small space at home with their only contact being with family and friends via video calls, naturally causes many to have depressed feelings and anxiety. We are all mourning a life we knew before, we crave it back a lot of the time, but there are shyness and fear in returning to the ‘normal’ we knew before. Life may never return to the ‘normal’ we knew. But one part of the return I hope to see, and that might start now we’re easing a lockdown soon, is that of kindness. At the start of the lockdown, the idea of kindness was emphasised and encouraged, as we all get third lockdown fatigue it’s easy to see why our kindness and consideration of one another has changed. But kindness should return as our focus, as we’re limited by social interactions, those brief seconds we might have with a stranger, or even a friend, we must realise that being kind is essential. Positive interactions will lead to positivity and hope that things will get better. We all have the possibility of being kind. It’s just whether we chose to be which will make the difference. The greater good of protecting ourselves against Covid is our aim, but while we are protecting each other’s physical health, let’s make sure with kind words and deeds we’re helping our mental health too.
Featured image credit @priscilladupreez from Unsplash