Mental Health Awareness Week and the importance of kindness

18 May 2020

Today marks the start of Mental Health Awareness Week and this year’s theme is “kindness”.


The abbreviation of our firm’s name, “KN”, is sometimes said, with a wry smile, to stand for “kind and nice”. We can be a bit ambivalent about that. We do have a fantastic culture in our firm. We strive to live by our values, which place teamwork, respect, integrity, fairness, understanding and commitment at the heart of what we do, and for the last six years we have been voted as one of the top 100 companies in the UK to work for in the Sunday Times Best Companies awards – in fact, top law firm for the last two years. But, given the fact that most of our work involves litigation, do we really want to be known of as kind? Does the description sit comfortably with a strongly commercial approach? Does it imply weakness?

I really don’t think so. From time to time over the years, prospective clients have said to me that they are looking for a tough lawyer, a “Rottweiler”.  I have tended to send them on their way.  If they want a lawyer to shout at opponents, there are plenty out there who will do that for them, but they don’t necessarily have a great track record. The lawyers that I want in this firm are lawyers who take good points, shun bad ones, who can build a relationship not just with their clients but also with their opponents – because at some point in most cases you are going to need to persuade your opponent to your point of view, and your task will be much harder if your conduct up to that point has been obnoxious.

So I therefore warmly welcome the focus on kindness in the Mental Health Awareness Week this week because of the central importance of kindness to the way we live our lives, both at work and in our personal lives. I was struck by the reason given by Mark Rowland, the Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation, for choosing kindness as the theme for the week:

We have chosen kindness because of its singular ability to unlock our shared humanity.  Kindness strengthens relationships, develops community and deepens solidarity. It is a cornerstone of our individual and collective mental health. Wisdom from every culture across history recognises that kindness is something that all human beings need to experience in practice to be fully alive”.

During this time of the coronavirus pandemic when many humans feel fragile and vulnerable, kindness is more important than ever.  The research from the Mental Health Foundation shows that protecting our mental health, which must include being kind to ourselves as well as others, will be central to humanity’s ability to cope and recover from this pandemic. 

The Foundation’s research reveals interesting statistics.  As a result of the coronavirus pandemic:

  • 22% of UK adults felt panic
  • 30% felt afraid
  • 18% felt helpless
  • 10% felt loneliness

According to a YouGov poll of over 2,000 UK adults aged 18 or over at the start of the crisis, 62% felt anxious or worried.

This week we will be exploring themes of kindness to celebrate Mental Health Awareness Week and our HR department will share the work that we are doing within the firm to look after the mental health of our members.

Kindness is an exceptional quality and we should cherish it. It builds resilience, individually and collectively. It makes our firm a better place to work.

Stephen Parkinson is Kingsley Napley's Senior Partner.

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