This is the theme for Britain's Mental Health Awareness Week which takes place all this week. Promoted by the Mental Health Foundation, it focuses on how by helping others by acts of kindness, volunteering and peer support, you can indeed help yourself. Research shows that doing good and helping others is good for your health and there can be nothing more humbling and satisfying than that feeling of helping someone who cannot help themselves.
I remember when I was a Samaritan volunteer, taking calls on a crisis phoneline, where my role was to listen to people who were desperate or lonely and needed someone with whom to speak. None of us received any financial reward for our help — yet the commitment and dedication to our role was as if we did, and the Samaritans have now become an international organisation helping people worldwide.
The act of giving
In 2012, when it is alleged that we are becoming more selfish and materialistic, I thought it may be opportune to flag up individual acts of kindness and generosity that I have come across over the past weeks.
1. Last week I was with a small group of volunteers, who all work for one company, and whom I have trained over the years to offer a listening service to any one of the hundreds of employees within their organisation who may need some help with personal, domestic or work problems. This team give of their time, as and when it is needed, to anyone in the organisation and are individually respected and valued by everyone within the organisation. As for myself, I am very proud of them for the valued help that they continually give to others.
2. I was watching a television programme the other day where a team of builders and tradesmen were voluntarily rebuilding the house of a man who has Motor Neurone disease, and who lives with his wife and three daughters. Within just nine days, his house was modified with new floors, doors and an outside extension so that he could use his wheelchair. All this was done by volunteers within the community and the last scene showed him thanking all the people who had come together to help him and his family, and this sight certainly brought tears to my eyes.
There are very many other examples I could give you but just let me say that life never runs in a straight line, rather it has its ups and downs, its highs and lows. One day, we can be living and working happily, and not needing any help from anyone, when suddenly we are thrown a ‘curved ball' and have to call upon others to help us, and that in itself is a major learning experience. Whether we are on the receiving end of help, or whether we are the ones who are doing the giving, the act makes us suddenly aware of how precious our life and our health is, and that of our family and our community.
However, as we know, it only takes one phone call to change our lives. And when it changes, that is the time to reassess what we have, and what we all too often take for granted because it is there. We certainly take for granted that we have a healthy mind and body. We may also take for granted that our children, our parents and our spouse, are all in good health, both mentally and physically.
Time to introspect
So as this is the UK's Mental Health Awareness week, let it be a good time to think of what you can do for someone else. What could your team do? What could your company do? Become a champion by ‘doing good for others' in your organisation and it will become a part of your daily activity.
There are plenty of people who already help others and when they read this, I hope they will agree with what I have written. But for those of you who have yet to start giving of your time to others, I hope that these few words might create a spark that will turn into a bright light as you start a journey that will be long lasting to make a difference to the life of someone less fortunate than yourself.
The author is a BBC guest broadcaster and motivational speaker. She is CEO of an international stress management consultancy and her new book, Show Stress Who's Boss! is available in all major bookshops.
- Helping others develops our empathy
- We do not have to receive payment to feel valued
- We shouldn't take good health for granted