The theme of World Mental Health Day 2016 is ‘psychological first aid’. This can come in many forms, and though the emphasis on this day is on what others can do for those in distress, it’s worth remembering that at the times when we are able to practice it – and it won’t be all the time, or even when we need it most – self-compassion is an important type of psychological first aid that we can administer ourselves.
This evening I was re-reading portions of Rachel Kelly’s excellent book ‘Walking on sunshine: 52 small steps to happiness’, and I was struck again by her ‘last step’, step 52, entitled ‘Unhistoric acts’. Apart from giving away the ending of Middlemarch (I’m ashamed to admit I haven’t yet managed to read it!), the chapter points to the wonderful quote above, which reflects the impact that the heroine of the novel had on the people around her and, to quote Rachel Kelly, it shows “the value of those small – but immeasurably important – acts that may go unnoticed, but can be crucial for our wellbeing and that of others”.
We can all administer psychological first aid – greater information and understanding about mental health conditions can of course help – but we are all capable of ‘unhistoric acts’ that can change lives and make a significant difference to those around us, and particularly to those in distress. Many of us will have been recipients of such unhistoric acts, whether from friends, family, therapists, ministers, colleagues or strangers; and we know the difference they have made. The acts may be known only to the two people involved – and sometimes only the recipients are aware of their effects; but their impact is as much for the good of the world, as it is for the good of an individual.
When it comes to unhistoric acts and the growing good of the world, we are all transformed – whether by the giving of compassion, or the receiving of it.